Macrophage migration inhibitory factor, a role in COPD

Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2016 Jul 1;311(1):L1-7. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00461.2015. Epub 2016 May 17.


Macrophage migration inhibitor factor (MIF) is a pluripotent cytokine associated with several different inflammatory conditions, but its role within lung inflammation and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is unclear. This study aimed to examine MIF in both stable COPD and during acute exacerbations (AECOPD). The study included 433 patients with COPD aged 41-76 and 325 individuals from the Bergen COPD cohort study who served as controls. All patients had an FEV1 of <80% predicted, FEV1/FVC ratio of <0.7, and a smoking history >10 pack-years. Serum levels of MIF were compared between the two groups at baseline, and for 149 patients, measurements were also carried out during AECOPD. Linear regression models were fitted with MIF as the outcome variable and adjusted for sex, age, body composition, smoking, and Charlson Comorbidity Score (CCS). Median MIF (interquartile range) in patients with COPD was 20.1 ng/ml (13.5-30.9) compared with 14.9 ng/ml (11.1-21.6) in controls (P < 0.01). MIF was bivariately associated with sex, body composition, and CCS (P < 0.05 for all). In the regression analyses, MIF was significantly higher in patients with COPD, coefficient 1.32 (P < 0.01) and 1.30 (P < 0.01) unadjusted and adjusted, respectively. In addition, in 149 patients during episodes of AECOPD, MIF was significantly elevated, with a median of 23.2 ng/ml (14.1-42.3) compared with measurements at stable disease of 19.3 ng/ml (12.4-31.3, P < 0.01). Serum levels of MIF were significantly higher in patients with COPD compared with controls. We also identified an additional increase in MIF levels during episodes of AECOPD.

Keywords: COPD; COPD exacerbation; biomarker; glucocorticoid resistance; macrophage migration inhibitory factor.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intramolecular Oxidoreductases / blood*
  • Macrophage Migration-Inhibitory Factors / blood*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / blood*


  • Biomarkers
  • Macrophage Migration-Inhibitory Factors
  • Intramolecular Oxidoreductases
  • MIF protein, human