Background: [¹⁸F]-2-fluoro-2-deoxyglucose (FDG)-PET scan uptake is increased in areas of fibrosis and honeycombing in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Glucose transporter-1 (Glut-1) is known to be the main transporter for FDG. There is a paucity of data regarding the distribution of Glut-1 and the cells responsible for FDG binding in fibrotic lung diseases.
Methods: We applied immunofluorescence to localize Glut-1 in normal, IPF, and Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome (HPS) pulmonary fibrosis lung tissue specimens as well as an array of 19 different lung neoplasms. In addition, we investigated Glut-1 expression in inflammatory cells from BAL fluid (BALF) from healthy volunteers, subjects with IPF, and subjects with HPS pulmonary fibrosis.
Results: In normal lung tissue, Glut-1 immunoreactivity was seen on the surface of erythrocytes. In tissue sections from fibrotic lung diseases (IPF and HPS pulmonary fibrosis), Glut-1 immunoreactivity was present on the surface of erythrocytes and inflammatory cells. BALF inflammatory cells from healthy control subjects showed no immunoreactivity; BALF cells from subjects with IPF and HPS pulmonary fibrosis showed Glut-1 immunoreactivity associated with neutrophils and alveolar macrophages.
Conclusions: Glut-1 transporter expression in normal lung is limited to erythrocytes. In fibrotic lung, erythrocytes and inflammatory cells express Glut-1. Together, these data suggest that FDG-PET scan uptake in IPF could be explained by enhanced inflammatory and erythrocytes uptake due to neovascularization seen in IPF and not an upregulation of metabolic rate in pneumocytes. Thus, FDG-PET scan may detect inflammation and neovascularization in lung fibrosis.