Azithromycin has become a standard of care in therapy of bronchiolitis obliterans following lung transplantation. Matrix metalloprotease-9 broncho-alveolar lavage levels increase in airway neutrophilia and bronchiolitis obliterans. Interleukin-17 may play a role in lung allograft rejection, and interleukin-12 is downregulated in bronchiolitis obliterans. Whether these mechanisms can be targeted by azithromycin remains unclear.Methods:
Bronchiolitis obliterans was induced by transplantation of Fischer F344 rat left lungs to Wistar Kyoto rats. Allografts with azithromycin therapy from day 1 to 28 or 56 and mono- or combination therapy with the broad-spectrum matrix metalloprotease inhibitor tanomastat from day 1 to 56 were compared to control allografts and isografts. Graft histology was assessed, and tissue cytokine expression studied using Western blotting and immunofluorescence.Results:
The chronic airway rejection score in the azithromycin group did not change between 4 and 8 weeks after transplantation, whereas it significantly worsened in control allografts (P = .041). Azithromycin+tanomastat prevented complete allograft fibrosis, which occurred in 40% of control allografts. Azithromycin reduced interleukin-17 expression (P = .049) and the number of IL-17+/CD8+ lymphocytes at 4 weeks, and active matrix metalloprotease-9 at 8 weeks (P = .017), and increased interleukin-12 expression (P = .025) at 8 weeks following transplantation versus control allografts.Conclusions:
The expression of interleukin-17 and matrix metalloprotease-9 in bronchiolitis obliterans may be attenuated by azithromycin, and the decrease in interleukin-12 expression was prevented by azithromycin. Combination of azithromycin with a matrix metalloprotease inhibitor is worth studying further because it prevented complete allograft fibrosis in this study.