Background Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are likely to be relevant mediators of the extracellular matrix (ECM) degradation and airway remodelling.
We have compared the levels of MMPs, eotaxin and soluble interleukin 2 receptor (IL-2R) in the plasma of healthy subjects, atopic patients and asthmatic patients.
Methods The asthmatic patients were separated into two groups, either well controlled on inhaled therapy or acute severe asthma. Patients with acute severe disease had all received systemic corticosteroids from 12 to 48 h before the blood was taken. Blood was recovered in EDTA tubes, incubated with either f MLP, PMA or vehicle for 10 min and centrifuged. MMP-9, TIMP-1, IL-2R and eotaxin levels were measured in the plasma by ELISA. Moreover, the activity of MMPs was also evaluated by zymography.
Results An increased basal level of MMP-9 and IL2-R was observed in acute severe asthma. Following stimulation with f MLP and PMA there was an enhanced production of MMP-9 in the plasma of all groups of patients. However, the MMP-9 level was significantly enhanced in acute severe asthma, compared with the others. No difference was found for the TIMP-1 level between the patients. The eotaxin level in plasma was found to be significantly lower in acute severe asthmatics compared with the others groups. Zymography technique showed a significant increased activity of MMP-9 (92 kDa) but not MMP-2 (66 kDa) in the plasma of patients with acute asthma.
Conclusion The increased in MMP-9 production and activity observed in the present study suggests a process of extracellular matrix degradation in acute severe asthmatic patients and proposes MMP-9 as a non-invasive systemic marker of inflammation and airway remodelling in asthma.