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Eur Respir J. 2002 Jun;19(6):1051-7.

Role of secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor in the development of subclinical emphysema.

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First Dept of Medicine, Hokkaido University School of Medicine, Sapporo, Japan.


Secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor (SLPI) is a potent inhibitor of human leukocyte elastase. In some chronic airway diseases, the level of SLPI is decreased in sputum, leading to the continuation of neutrophil inflammation. In this study, the role of SLPI in subclinical pulmonary emphysema was examined. Sequential bronchoalveolar lavage was performed in an attempt to separately evaluate the levels of SLPI in the large airways and in the peripheral airways for two groups of smokers. One group had subclinical emphysema by computed-tomography scans and one group did not. SLPI localized in alveolar macrophages (AM) was also assessed. The level of SLPI was significantly elevated in the peripheral airways from the subjects with emphysema compared to those without emphysema (1589.2+/-353.9 versus 729.1+/-31.0 ng x mL(-1)), although it was similar in the large airways (3442.3+/-499.6 versus 2535.7+/-578.8 ng x mL(-1)). There was a trend for higher amount of SLPI to be released from AM in subjects with subclinical emphysema, although this did not reach statistical significance. In conclusion, there is compensatory upregulation of secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor in peripheral airways in subclinical pulmonary emphysema, which is in sharp contrast to the decreased level of secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor reported in some chronic airway diseases.

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