Author(s): WestergrenThorsson G, Chakir J, LafreniereAllard MJ, Boulet LP, Tremblay GM
Asthma is characterized by an airway remodeling process involving altered extracellular matrix deposition such as collagen, fibronectin and proteoglycans. Proteoglycans determine tissue mechanical properties and are involved in many important biological aspects. Not surprisingly, it has been suggested that proteoglycan deposition may alter airway properties in asthma including airway hyperresponsiveness. In chronically inflamed airway tissues, fibroblasts likely represent an activated fibrotic phenotype that contributes to the excessive deposition of different extracellular matrix components. To investigate whether this was the case for proteoglycans, the production of hyaluronan, perlecan, versican, small heparan sulphate proteoglycans (HSPGs), decorin and biglycan was quantified in the culture medium of primary bronchial fibroblast cultures, established from four normal and six asthmatic subjects. Values were further correlated to the airway responsiveness (PC(20) methacholine) of donor subjects. Fibroblasts from subjects with the most hyperresponsive airways produced up to four times more total proteoglycans than cells from subjects with less hyperresponsive or normoresponsive airways. We observed a significant negative correlation between the PC(20) and perlecan, small HSPGs and biglycan, while such correlation was absent for decorin and close to significant for hyaluronan and versican. Altered proteoglycan metabolism by bronchial fibroblasts may contribute to the increased proteoglycan deposition in the bronchial mucosa and to airway hyperresponsiveness characterizing asthma.