Pathological Hyaluronan Matrices in Cystic Fibrosis Airways and Secretions

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Hyaluronan (HA) has been used in treatment of cystic fibrosis (CF) via a nebulizer and has demonstrated success in clinical outcomes. HA is an important glycosaminoglycan that is cross-linked by heavy chains (HCs) from inter-α-inhibitor during inflammation. HC cross-linked HA (HC-HA) becomes significantly more adhesive for leukocytes than non-cross-linked HA, which can enhance inflammation. Our studies tested the hypothesis that HC-HA is present in CF airways and that altered ratios of HC-HA to its degradation into relatively lower molecular weight HA contribute to the pathophysiology of chronic inflammation in CF. We evaluated the distribution, levels, and size of HC-HA within CF, healthy, and diseased control lung, bronchus, and sputum tissues by histological and biochemical approaches. HC-HA was significantly elevated in CF, with deposits around the pulmonary vasculature, airway submucosa, and in the stroma of the submucosal glands. The increased infiltration of leukocyte populations correlated with the distribution of HC-HA matrices in the airways. Elevated lung tissue HC-HA correlated with decreased HA levels in CF mucus and sputum compared with controls, suggesting that aberrant degradation and cross-linking of HA in lung tissue is a unique feature of CF. The accumulation and degradation of proinflammatory HC-HA in CF lung tissue suggests that aberrant HA catabolism and cross-linking may contribute to chronic inflammation in airway tissues and affect mucus viscosity in CF airways.

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