Open Access Open Badges Research article

Analysis of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid proteome from systemic sclerosis patients with or without functional, clinical and radiological signs of lung fibrosis

AM Fietta14*, AM Bardoni2, R Salvini2, I Passadore1, M Morosini1, L Cavagna34, V Codullo34, E Pozzi14, F Meloni14 and C Montecucco34

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Haematological, Pneumological and Cardiovascular Sciences, University of Pavia, Via Taramelli 5, 27100 Pavia, Italy

2 Department of Biochemistry, University of Pavia, Via Taramelli 5, 27100 Pavia, Italy

3 Department of Internal Medicine, University of Pavia, Via Taramelli 5, 27100 Pavia, Italy

4 IRCCS San Matteo, Piazzale Golgi 2, 27100 Pavia, Italy

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2006, 8:R160  doi:10.1186/ar2067

Published: 17 October 2006


Lung fibrosis is a major cause of mortality and morbidity in systemic sclerosis (SSc). However, its pathogenesis still needs to be elucidated. We examined whether the alteration of certain proteins in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) might have a protective or a causative role in the lung fibrogenesis process. For this purpose we compared the BALF protein profile obtained from nine SSc patients with lung fibrosis (SScFib+) with that obtained from six SSc patients without pulmonary fibrosis (SScFib-) by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis (2-DE). Only spots and spot-trains that were consistently expressed in a different way in the two study groups were taken into consideration. In total, 47 spots and spot-trains, corresponding to 30 previously identified proteins in human BALF, showed no significant variation between SScFib+ patients and SScFib- patients, whereas 24 spots showed a reproducible significant variation in the two study groups. These latter spots corresponded to 11 proteins or protein fragments, including serum albumin fragments (13 spots), 5 previously recognized proteins (7 spots), and 4 proteins (3 spots) that had not been previously described in human BALF maps, namely calumenin, cytohesin-2, cystatin SN, and mitochondrial DNA topoisomerase 1 (mtDNA TOP1). Mass analysis did not determine one protein-spot. The two study groups revealed a significant difference in BALF protein composition. Whereas levels of glutathione S-transferase P (GSTP), Cu–Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD) and cystatin SN were downregulated in SScFib+ patients compared with SScFib- patients, we observed a significant upregulation of α1-acid glycoprotein, haptoglobin-α chain, calgranulin (Cal) B, cytohesin-2, calumenin, and mtDNA TOP1 in SScFib+ patients. Some of these proteins (GSTP, Cu–Zn SOD, and cystatin SN) seem to be involved in mechanisms that protect lungs against injury or inflammation, whereas others (Cal B, cytohesin-2, and calumenin) seem to be involved in mechanisms that drive lung fibrogenesis. Even if the 2-DE analysis of BALF did not provide an exhaustive identification of all BALF proteins, especially those of low molecular mass, it allows the identification of proteins that might have a role in lung fibrogenesis. Further longitudinal studies on larger cohorts of patients will be necessary to assess their usefulness as predictive markers of disease.