Background: Altered deposition of extracellular matrix (ECM) in the airway smooth muscle (ASM) layer as observed in asthma may influence ASM mechanical properties. We hypothesized that ECM in ASM is associated with airway function in asthma. First, we investigated the difference in ECM expression in ASM between asthma and controls. Second, we examined whether ECM expression is associated with bronchoconstriction and bronchodilation in vivo.
Methods: Our cross-sectional study comprised 19 atopic mild asthma patients, 15 atopic and 12 nonatopic healthy subjects. Spirometry, methacholine responsiveness, deep-breath-induced bronchodilation (ΔR(rs) ) and bronchoscopy with endobronchial biopsies were performed. Positive staining of elastin, collagen I, III and IV, decorin, versican, fibronectin, laminin and tenascin in ASM was quantified as fractional area and mean density. Data were analysed using Pearson's or Spearman's correlation coefficient.
Results: Extracellular matrix expression in ASM was not different between asthma and controls. In asthmatics, fractional area and mean density of collagen I and III were correlated with methacholine dose-response slope and ΔR(rs) , respectively (r = 0.71, P < 0.01; r = 0.60, P = 0.02). Furthermore, ASM collagen III and laminin in asthma were correlated with FEV(1) reversibility (r = -0.65, P = 0.01; r = -0.54, P = 0.04).
Conclusion: In asthma, ECM in ASM is related to the dynamics of airway function in the absence of differences in ECM expression between asthma and controls. This indicates that the ASM layer in its full composition is a major structural component in determining variable airways obstruction in asthma.
© 2012 John Wiley & Sons A/S.