Background: A variety of studies have stressed the importance of the control of inflammatory cell longevity and the balance of pro-survival and pro-apoptotic signaling pathways. The aim of the study was to investigate the systemic activation of apoptosis pathways using cDNA array technology in patients with acute onset sarcoidosis.
Method: We have performed a comprehensive genomic analysis, applying high-density human GeneChip probe arrays (HGU95A, Affymetrix) for RNA expression profiling from peripheral blood mononuclear cells from patients with acute pulmonary sarcoidosis and matched healthy controls. Twelve patients and 12 controls were assessed, mean age 36 +/- 12 and 33 +/- 10 years respectively. Results focus on apoptosis-related gene products. Group differences were assessed with the Mann-Whitney U-test.
Results: Seven patients had self-limited disease (all type I sarcoidosis) and 5 progressive disease requiring immunosuppression (all type II or III sarcoidosis). We found 53 of 112 (47%) apoptosis-related gene products dysregulated in sarcoidosis compared to controls. Particular growth factors, especially heparin-binding EGF-like GF, EGF, PDEGF, SISPDGF2 and VEGF, were upregulated in patients consistent with a pro-survival profile. The Bcl-2 family of genes also showed a net pro-survival profile in sarcoidosis patients. In contrast, alterations in the TNF-pathway were compatible with increased apoptosis signals in both, type I and type II/III sarcoidosis patients. Other cell death receptors were equally expressed, as were caspases and p53-associated genes. In contrast to patients with type I-sarcoidosis, patients with progressive type II or III disease showed an upregulation of NFKB and a leak of downregulation of inhibitor of apoptosis 1.
Conclusion: Significant differences in the expression of apoptosis-related genes were found in peripheral blood of patients with acute onset sarcoidosis. Gene expression did not show a definite pattern that was suggestive of pro-survival or proapoptosis. However, the number of genes whose altered expression would be predicted to favour increased survival exceeded that of genes likely to reduce survival. Protein-based confirmation of the differences in the activity of apoptosis-pathways needs to be done in further studies.