Pathological remodeling of distal lung matrix in end-stage cystic fibrosis patients



      Manifestations of cystic fibrosis, although well-characterized in the proximal airways, are understudied in the distal lung. Characterization of the cystic fibrosis lung ‘matrisome’ (matrix proteome) has not been previously described, and could help identify biomarkers and inform therapeutic strategies.


      We performed liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, gene ontology analysis, and multi-modal imaging, including histology, immunofluorescence, and electron microscopy for a comprehensive evaluation of distal human lung extracellular matrix (matrix) structure and composition in end-stage cystic fibrosis.


      Quantitative proteomic profiling identified sixty-eight (68) matrix constituents with significantly altered expression in end-stage cystic fibrosis. Over 90% of significantly different matrix peptides detected, including structural and basement membrane proteins, were expressed at lower levels in cystic fibrosis. However, the total abundance of matrix in cystic fibrosis lungs was not significantly different from control lungs, suggesting that cystic fibrosis leads to loss of diversity among lung matrix proteins rather than an absolute loss of matrix. Visualization of distal lung matrix via immunofluorescence and electron microscopy revealed pathological remodeling of distal lung tissue architecture and loss of alveolar basement membrane, consistent with significantly altered pathways identified by gene ontology analysis.


      Dysregulation of matrix organization and aberrant wound healing pathways are associated with loss of matrix protein diversity and obliteration of distal lung tissue structure in end-stage cystic fibrosis. While many therapeutics aim to functionally restore defective cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR), drugs that target dysregulated matrix pathways may serve as adjunct interventions to support lung recovery.

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