Emphysema, one of the major components of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), is characterized by the progressive and irreversible loss of alveolar lung tissue. Even though >80% of COPD cases are associated with cigarette smoking, only a relatively small proportion of smokers develop emphysema, suggesting a potential role for genetic factors in determining individual susceptibility to emphysema. Although strain-dependent effects have been shown in animal models of emphysema, the molecular basis underlying this intrinsic susceptibility is not fully understood. In this present study, we investigated emphysema development using the elastase-induced experimental emphysema model in two commonly used mouse strains, C57BL/6J and BALB/cJ. The results demonstrate that mice with different genetic backgrounds show disparate susceptibility to the development of emphysema. BALB/cJ mice were found to be much more sensitive than C57BL/6J to elastase injury in both a dose-dependent and time-dependent manner, as measured by significantly higher mortality, greater body weight loss, greater decline in lung function, and a greater loss of alveolar tissue. The more susceptible BALB/cJ strain also showed the persistence of inflammatory cells in the lung, especially macrophages and lymphocytes. A comparative gene expression analysis following elastase-induced injury showed BALB/cJ mice had elevated levels of il17A mRNA and a number of classically (M1) and alternatively (M2) activated macrophage genes, whereas the C57BL/6J mice demonstrated augmented levels of interferon-γ. These findings suggest a possible role for these cellular and molecular mediators in modulating the severity of emphysema and highlight the possibility that they might contribute to the heterogeneity observed in clinical emphysema outcomes.
Keywords: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; cytokines; diffusing capacity; lung function; lymphocytes; macrophage.
Copyright © 2015 the American Physiological Society.