Bronchial lavage proteins as correlates of histopathologic airway changes in healthy smokers and patients with pulmonary carcinoma

W. W. Merrill, K. W. Barwick, J. Madri, W. Strober, R. A. Matthay, J. Olchowski, G. Naegel, H. Y. Reynolds

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11 Scopus citations


Cigarette smoking is known to be an important etiologic factor in several lung diseases; however, the number of smokers who develop these diseases represents a small segment of the smoking population. It is possible that evidence of inhalation-induced injury to bronchial epithelial cells of smokers will be reflected in the proteinaceous products of these cells, thereby identifying a high-risk subgroup. We have tested this hypothesis by analysis of 2 proteins, free secretory component (FSC) and the keratins, in lavage fluids obtained from 4 groups of subjects: 30 normal nonsmokers, 15 asymptomatic smokers, 22 symptomatic smokers, and 40 carcinoma patients. Among symptomatic smokers, FSC relative to total protein (FSC/TP) was depressed compared with that in nonsmokers and asymptomatic smokers. The keratins were detected only in symptomatic smokers and correlated with pack/years of smoking history (p = 0.017). Carcinoma patients had depressed FSC/TP and detectable keratin (33 of 38 patients studied). Lung sections from carcinoma patients studied immunohistochemically revealed an apparent inverse relationship between tissue FSC and keratins. This inverse relationship was borne out by analysis of these proteins in the lavage fluid of cancer patients (r = -0.4, p = 0.04). Thus, in cancer patients, immunohistochemical evidence of airway injury correlates with bronchial lavage levels of mucosal epithelial cell proteins. It is possible that smokers with altered levels of these proteins may be the ones at increased risk of smoking-associated lung disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)905-909
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Review of Respiratory Disease
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1984

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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