Enhanced proteoglycan deposition in the airway wall of atopic asthmatics

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1999 Aug;160(2):725-9. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm.160.2.9809040.


Increased extracellular matrix (ECM) deposition in the airway wall contributes to the airway wall remodeling observed in asthmatics. Although alterations in collagen have been well described, less is known about changes in other components of the ECM, particularly proteoglycans (PGs). Endobronchial biopsies were obtained from seven patients with mild atopic asthma and six normal control subjects. Tissues were blocked in OCT and frozen in isopentane. Sections were immunostained with antibodies for the small leucine-rich PGs, lumican, biglycan, decorin, and fibromodulin and for versican, a large chondroitin sulfate PG. We calculated the area of positive staining in the subepithelial layer, correcting for basement membrane length. Lumican, biglycan, and versican were localized predominantly in the subepithelial layer of the airway wall in all groups. PG deposition was significantly increased in asthmatics as compared with that in control subjects. Furthermore, the degree of PG immunoreactivity was significantly correlated with airway responsiveness in the asthmatics (lumican; r = -0.77, p < 0.05; biglycan: r = -0.76, p < 0.05; versican: r = -0.74, p = 0.06). Our results suggest that PGs may play a role in airway wall remodeling and thereby, airway mechanics in asthma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / pathology*
  • Basement Membrane / pathology
  • Biglycan
  • Biopsy
  • Bronchi / pathology*
  • Chondroitin Sulfate Proteoglycans / metabolism
  • Epithelium / pathology
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / metabolism
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume / physiology
  • Humans
  • Keratan Sulfate / metabolism
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Lumican
  • Male
  • Proteoglycans / metabolism*
  • Reference Values
  • Respiratory Hypersensitivity / pathology*
  • Versicans


  • BGN protein, human
  • Biglycan
  • Chondroitin Sulfate Proteoglycans
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • LUM protein, human
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Lumican
  • Proteoglycans
  • VCAN protein, human
  • Versicans
  • Keratan Sulfate