Background: Matrix metalloproteinases (MMP´s) are known biomarkers of atherosclerosis. MMP´s are also involved in the pathophysiological processes underlying chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Cigarette smoking plays an important role in both disease states and is also known to affect the concentration and activity of MMP´s systemically. Unfortunately, the epidemiological data concerning the value of MMP´s as biomarkers of COPD and atherosclerosis with special regards to smoking habits are limited.
Methods: 450 middle-aged subjects with records of smoking habits and tobacco consumption were examined with comprehensive spirometry, carotid ultrasound examination and biomarker analysis of MMP-1, -3, -7, -10 and -12. Due to missing data 33 subjects were excluded.
Results: The remaining 417 participants were divided into 4 different groups. Group I (n = 157, no plaque and no COPD), group II (n = 136, plaque but no COPD), group III (n = 43, COPD but no plaque) and group IV (n = 81, plaque and COPD). Serum levels of MMP-1,-7,-10-12 were significantly influenced by smoking, and MMP-1, -3, -7 and-12 were elevated in subjects with COPD and carotid plaque. This remained statistically significant for MMP-1 and-12 after adjusting for traditional risk factors.
Conclusion: COPD and concomitant plaque in the carotid artery were associated with elevated levels of MMP-1 and -MMP-12 even when adjusting for risk factors. Further studies are needed to elucidate if these two MMP´s could be useful as biomarkers in a clinical setting. Smoking was associated with increased serum levels of MMP´s (except for MMP-3) and should be taken into account when interpreting serum MMP results.