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J Heart Lung Transplant. 1999 Sep;18(9):828-37.

Transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) and obliterative bronchiolitis following pulmonary transplantation.

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Cardiothoracic Transplant Unit, Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester, UK.



Obliterative bronchiolitis (OB) characterised by small-airway fibrosis is a major cause of morbidity and mortality after lung transplantation. TGF-beta has been implicated in the pathogenesis of fibrosis.


We immunohistochemically examined 380 transbronchial biopsies (from 91 pulmonary transplants) using TGF-beta polyclonal antibodies. OB and interstitial fibrosis were diagnosed and graded in all biopsies. Other potential histologic and clinical risk factors for OB were analysed.


Procedures were heart and lung (n = 32), bilateral sequential lung (n = 18), and single lung transplantation (n = 41). The incidence of OB in this group was 28.5%. In all patients with OB, TGF-beta was immunolocalized in the airways and lung parenchyma. TGF-beta expression was greater in OB patients (median score 8, range 5-12) in comparison to patients without OB (median score 4, range 1-13), p < .0001. Positive TGF-beta staining preceded the histologic confirmation of OB by 6 to 18 months. The development of OB was associated with two HLA mismatches at the A locus (p = .02); recurrent acute rejection episodes (p < .0005); lymphocytic bronchiolitis (p = .0001); and tissue eosinophilia, regardless of the rejection grade (p < .0001).


Increased expression of TGF-beta is a risk factor for the development of OB. Other risk factors are recurrent acute rejection, lymphocytic bronchiolitis, tissue eosinophilia, and two mismatches at the HLA-A locus. This suggests that the pathogenesis of progressive small airway fibrosis characteristic of OB may be inflammatory damage, followed by an aberrant repair process due to excessive TGF-beta production following allograft injury. Hence, modulation of TGF-beta levels or function by antagonists may represent an important approach to control OB.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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