Background Bronchial asthma is an inflammatory disease of the airway characterized by airway remodelling, and is due at least in part to an excess of extracellular matrix (ECM) deposition in the airway wall, which leads to subepithelial collagen deposition. Matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) is the major proteolytic enzyme that induces bronchial remodelling in asthma. MMP-9 is also important in the migration of inflammatory cells through basement membrane components.
Objectives We evaluated whether airway inflammatory cells correlated with levels of MMP-9 in acute asthma and we examined the time course of sputum levels of MMP-9 activity in patients with spontaneous asthma exacerbation.
Methods We performed zymographic analysis and checked levels of MMP-9 by means of enzyme immunoassay. MMP-9 levels were also evaluated during a spontaneous attack of asthma.
Results Pro-MMP-9 activities and concentrations of MMP-9 in asthmatic patients significantly exceeded those of control subjects (P < 0.01). The activities of pro-MMP-9 were significantly higher in acute asthmatic patients than in stable asthmatic patients (P < 0.01). The elevated MMP-9 activities significantly decreased after 7 and 28 days of therapy. In acute asthmatic patients, the levels of sputum MMP-9 significantly correlated with the total macrophage + neutrophil + eosinophil cell numbers.
Conclusion These data suggest that airway inflammation after asthma exacerbation correlates with the overproduction of MMP-9, which then leads to airway remodelling.