Surfactant protein levels in bronchoalveolar lavage after segmental allergen challenge in patients with asthma
Background: Allergic asthma is associated with airway inflammation and dysfunction of pulmonary surfactant. Because surfactant proteins (SP) account for immunomodulatory functions as well as biophysical functions, we hypothesized that the allergic response in asthma might be accompanied by a dysregulation of SPs. Methods: We measured levels of SP-A, SP-B, SP-C and SP-D by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid of 23 asthma patients and 10 healthy control subjects under well-controlled conditions before and 24 h after segmental allergen provocation. These data were related to surfactant function, Th2 cytokine levels in BAL fluid and to the degree of eosinophilic inflammation. Results: In patients with asthma, allergen challenge increased BAL levels of SP-B, SP-C and SP-D while SP-A was decreased. For SP-B and SP-D, a moderate increase was also observed after saline challenge. In contrast, no alterations were observed in healthy control subjects. Levels of SP-B and SP-C in asthmatics correlated with the ratio of small to large surfactant aggregates (SA/LA ratio) and correlated negatively with BAL surface activity. Furthermore, increased SP-C but not SP-B levels after allergen challenge correlated with eosinophil numbers, interleukin (IL)-5, and IL-13 in BAL while increased SP-D levels only correlated with eosinophil numbers. Conclusions: This study demonstrates significant alterations of all SPs in BAL fluid after allergen challenge of which SP-C was most closely related to surfactant dysfunction and the degree of the allergic inflammation.