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Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2012 Dec 15;303(12):L1037-45. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00117.2012. Epub 2012 Oct 12.

Novel aspects of urokinase function in the injured lung: role of α2-macroglobulin.

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Texas Lung Injury Institute, University of Texas Health Science Center, Tyler, Texas, USA.


The level of active urokinase (uPA) is decreased in lung fluids of patients with acute lung injury/acute respiratory distress syndrome (ALI/ARDS) whereas α(2)-macroglobulin (α(2)-M), a plasma proteinase inhibitor, is a major component of these fluids. Since there have been reports describing the ability of α(2)-M to form complexes with uPA in vitro, we hypothesized that α(2)-M may interact with uPA in the lung to modulate its biological activity. Pulmonary edema fluids and lung tissues from patients with ALI/ARDS were evaluated for the presence of uPA associated with α(2)-M. Complexes between α(2)-M and uPA were detected in alveolar edema fluids as well as in lungs of patients with ALI/ARDS where they were located mainly in close proximity to epithelial cells. While uPA bound to α(2)-M retains its amidolytic activity towards low-molecular-weight substrates, it is not inhibited by its main physiological inhibitor, plasminogen activator inhibitor 1. We also investigated the functional consequences of formation of complexes between uPA and α(2)-M in vitro. We found that when α(2)-M:uPA complexes were added to cultures of human bronchial epithelial cells (BEAS-2B), activation of nuclear factor-κB as well as production of interleukin-6 and -8 was substantially suppressed compared with the addition of uPA alone. Our findings indicate for the first time that the function of uPA in patients with ALI/ARDS may be modulated by α(2)-M and that the effects may include the regulation of the fibrinolytic and signaling activities of uPA.

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