Background Allergic conditions in different organs share many similarities in their inflammatory response. Vernal keratoconjunctivitis (VKC), asthma and nasal polyps exhibit several similar, but site-specific mucosal structural changes. The aim of the study was to investigate whether matrix metalloproteases contribute to different tissue remodelling aspects in different organs.
Methods Mucosal biopsies were obtained from conjunctiva of healthy donors, tarsal conjunctiva of vernal patients, bronchi of non-asthmatic subjects, bronchi of mild stable asthmatic patients, nasal mucosa of non-allergic donors and nasal polyps of allergic patients. Distribution of metalloprotease-1, -3, -9, -13, tissue inhibitor of metalloproteases-1, collagens I and III and the presence of eosinophils and CD4+ cells were evaluated by immunohistochemistry.
Results Collagens were highly diffuse in the giant papillae of VKC and in nasal polyps, and yet less increased in the subepithelium of asthmatic patients. Immunostaining for metalloprotease-1, -3, -9 and -13 was significantly higher in VKC compared with normal conjunctiva. Metalloprotease-9 staining was higher in the stroma of polyps vs. normal nasal mucosa, and only metalloprotease-13 was significantly more expressed in asthmatic vs. non-asthmatic subjects. Metalloprotease-9 immunostaining was more intense in vernal compared with other tissues. In all pathological tissues, metalloprotease-9-positive staining was in association with eosinophils and CD4+ cells.
Conclusions Expression of metalloproteases may play an important role in inducing the structural changes seen in VKC, nasal polyps and asthma. Tissue remodelling and gelatinase immunoexpression was more dramatic in giant papillae of vernal patients compared with other tissue sites of chronic allergic inflammation.