Biomarkers for the management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are limited. The aim of this study was to explore new plasma biomarkers in patients with COPD. Thyroxine-binding globulin (THBG) was initially identified by proteomics in a discovery panel and subsequently verified by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in another verification panel with a 1-year follow-up. THBG levels were elevated in patients with COPD (9.2±2.3 μg/mL) compared to those of the controls (6.6±2.0 μg/mL). Receiver operating characteristic curves suggested that THBG was able to slightly differentiate between patients with COPD and controls (area under the curve [AUC]: 0.814) and performed better if combined with fibrinogen (AUC: 0.858). THBG was more capable of distinguishing Global Initiative for Obstructive Lung Disease stages I-III and IV (AUC: 0.851) compared with fibrinogen (AUC 0.582). THBG levels were negatively associated with predicted percentage forced expiratory volume in 1 s and positively related to predicted percentage residual volume, RV/percentage total lung capacity, and percentage low-attenuation area. COPD patients with higher baseline THBG levels had a greater risk of acute exacerbation (AE) than those with lower THBG levels (P=0.014, by Kaplan-Meier curve; hazard ratio: 4.229, by Cox proportional hazards model). In summary, THBG is a potential plasma biomarker of COPD and can assist in the management of stable stage and AEs in COPD patients.
Keywords: biomarker; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; proteomics; thyroxine-binding globulin.