Upper Airway Mucosal Inflammation : Proteomic Studies after Exposure to Irritants and Microbial Agents

Sammanfattning: People are, in their daily lives, exposed to a number of airborne foreign compounds that do not normally affect the body. However, depending on the nature of these compounds, dose and duration of exposure, various airway symptoms may arise. Early symptoms are often manifested as upper airway mucosal inflammation which generates changes in protein composition in the airway lining fluid.This thesis aims at identifying, understanding mechanisms and characterizing protein alterations in the upper airway mucosa that can be used as potential new biomarkers for inflammation in the mucosa. The protein composition in the mucosa was studied by sampling of nasal lavage fluid that was further analyzed with a proteomic approach using twodimensional gel electrophoresis and mass spectrometry. Additionally, by studying factors on site through environmental examination, health questionnaires and biological analyses, we have tried to understand the background to these protein alterations and their impact on health.Respiratory symptoms from the upper airways are common among people who are exposed to irritative and microbial agents. This thesis have focused on personnel in swimming pool facilities exposed to trichloramine, metal industry workers exposed to metalworking fluids, employees working in damp and moldy buildings and infants diagnosed with respiratory syncytial virus infection. The common denominator in these four studies is that the subjects experience upper airway mucosal inflammation, which is manifested as cough, rhinitis, phlegm etc. In the three occupational studies, the symptoms were work related. Notably, a high prevalence of perceived mucosal symptoms was shown despite the relatively low levels of airborne irritants revealed by the environmental examination. Protein profiling verified an ongoing inflammatory response by identification of several proteins that displayed altered levels. Interestingly, innate immune proteins dominated and four protein alterations occurred in most of the studies; SPLUNC1, protein S100A8 and S100A9 and alpha-1-antitrypsin. Similarly, these proteins were also found in nasal fluid from children with virus infection and in addition a truncated form of SPLUNC1 and two other S100 proteins (S100A7-like 2 and S100A16), not previously found in nasal secretion, were identified.Altogether, the results indicate the potential use of a proteomic approach for identifying new biomarkers for the upper respiratory tract at an early stage in the disease process after exposure to irritant and microbial agents. The results indicate an effect on the innate immunity system and the proteins; SPLUNC1, protein S100A8 and S100A9 and alpha-1-antitrypsin are especially promising new biomarkers. Moreover, further studies of these proteins may help us to understand the molecular mechanisms involved in irritant-induced airway inflammation.