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Chest. 1999 Jul;116(1):47-51.

Microsatellite DNA instability in COPD.

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Department of Thoracic Medicine, Medical School, University of Crete, Heraklion, Greece.



Cigarette smoking is the prime cause of COPD; however, only a few smokers develop the disease. In a previous study, we demonstrated that microsatellite DNA instability (MSI) is a detectable phenomenon in sputum cells of COPD patients. Therefore, we hypothesize that this genetic alteration may indicate susceptibility to COPD.


In order to investigate this hypothesis, we compared smokers who developed COPD with smokers who did not develop COPD (referred to as non-COPD smokers).


Seven highly polymorphic microsatellite markers were targeted on the DNA of sputum cells and of WBCs.


We studied 60 non-COPD smokers and 59 severe COPD patients with a similar smoking history (mean +/- SD) of 48+/-25 and 54+/-33 pack-years, respectively (p = 0.77). Non-COPD smokers were tested once; COPD smokers were tested twice, with an interval of 24 months between tests.


MSI was detected in 14 COPD patients (24%) but in none of the non-COPD smokers. In 10 COPD patients, MSI was exhibited by one microsatellite marker; in the remaining 4 COPD patients, MSI was exhibited by two different alleles. The most commonly affected marker was THRA1 on chromosome 17 (43%). No significant differences were found between MSI-positive and MSI-negative COPD patients for clinical or laboratory parameters, survival, and development of lung cancer. No change in the microsatellite alleles was found between the tests performed with a 24-month interval.


This study demonstrated that MSI was found exclusively in the sputum cells of smokers with COPD. The results support the hypothesis that MSI could be part of the complex genetic basis of COPD, and it could be a marker of the genetic alteration caused by smoking that allows COPD to develop.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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