Biomarkers in connective tissue disease-associated interstitial lung disease

Semin Respir Crit Care Med. 2014 Apr;35(2):181-200. doi: 10.1055/s-0034-1371527. Epub 2014 Mar 25.


This article reviews major biomarkers in serum and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) with respect to their diagnostic and prognostic value in connective tissue disease-associated interstitial lung disease (CTD-ILD). In some CTD such as systemic sclerosis (SSc), the incidence of ILD is up to two-third of patients, and currently ILD represents the leading cause of death in SSc. Because of the extremely variable incidence and outcome of ILD in CTD, progress in the discovery and validation of biomarkers for diagnosis, prognosis, patients' subtyping, response to treatment, or as surrogate endpoints in clinical trials is extremely important. In contrast to idiopathic interstitial pneumonias, autoantibodies play a crucial role as biomarkers in CTD-ILD because their presence is strictly linked to the pathogenesis and tissue damage. Patterns of autoantibodies, for instance, anticitrullinated peptide antibodies in rheumatoid arthritis or aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (ARS) in polymyositis/dermatomyositis, have been found to correlate with the presence and occasionally with the course of ILD in CTD. Besides autoantibodies, an increase in serum or BALF of a biomarker of pulmonary origin may be able to predict or reflect the development of fibrosis, the impairment of lung function, and ideally also the prognosis. Promising biomarkers are lung epithelium-derived proteins such as KL-6 (Krebs von den Lungen-6), SP-D (surfactant protein-D), SP-A (surfactant protein-A), YKL-40 (chitinase-3-like protein 1 [CHI3L1] or cytokines such as CCL18 [chemokine (C-C) motif ligand 18]). In the future, genetic/epigenetic markers, such as human leukocyte antigen (HLA) haplotypes, single nucleotide polymorphisms, and micro-RNA, may help to identify subtypes of patients with different needs of management and treatment strategies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autoantibodies / immunology
  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid
  • Connective Tissue Diseases / complications*
  • Connective Tissue Diseases / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / diagnosis
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / etiology*
  • Lung Diseases, Interstitial / physiopathology
  • Prognosis


  • Autoantibodies
  • Biomarkers