Trefoil factor family domain peptides in the human respiratory tract

J Pathol. 2000 Feb;190(2):133-42. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-9896(200002)190:2<133::AID-PATH518>3.0.CO;2-B.


Trefoil factor family domain peptides (TFF) are thought to be involved in mucosal epithelial restitution and wound healing of the gastrointestinal tract and are up-regulated in ulceration and in a variety of solid tumours. It was hypothesized that TFFs are also expressed on mucosal surfaces of the human respiratory tract. Lung tissue, nasal polyps, and sputum samples from seven patients with cystic fibrosis (CF), two with chronic and acute bronchitis, and non-dysplastic material from two cases of bronchial adenocarcinoma were analysed for TFF expression by immunohistochemistry, immunofluorescence, western blot and RT-PCR. Expression of TFF1 and TFF3 was observed in material from all patients. TFFs were localized in goblet and ciliated cells, as well as in some submucosal cells of tracheobronchial tissues and nasal polyps from normal and CF individuals. In sputa of patients with CF and with chronic or acute bronchitis, TFF1 and TFF3 were detected by western blotting. Freshly cultivated nasal epithelial cells transcribed and secreted TFFs and mucins, whereas nasal cells cultivated for 6 weeks still expressed mucins, but not TFFs. Secreted TFFs and mucins also bound to the surface of Staphylococcus aureus in infected CF airways. In conclusion, TFF1 and TFF3 are expressed and secreted in normal and inflamed airways. The association of TFFs with bacteria may contribute to the anti-microbial mucociliary defence system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / metabolism
  • Aged
  • Bronchitis / metabolism
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cystic Fibrosis / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Indirect
  • Growth Substances / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mucins*
  • Muscle Proteins*
  • Nasal Polyps / metabolism
  • Neuropeptides*
  • Peptides / metabolism
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / metabolism*
  • Sinusitis / metabolism
  • Sputum / metabolism
  • Staphylococcus aureus / metabolism
  • Trefoil Factor-1
  • Trefoil Factor-2
  • Trefoil Factor-3
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins


  • Growth Substances
  • Mucins
  • Muscle Proteins
  • Neuropeptides
  • Peptides
  • Proteins
  • TFF1 protein, human
  • TFF3 protein, human
  • TFF3 protein, rat
  • Trefoil Factor-1
  • Trefoil Factor-2
  • Trefoil Factor-3
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins