Effects of azithromycin and tanomastat on experimental bronchiolitis obliterans

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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.


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.


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.


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.

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