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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the author’s final published version in Respiratory Research

Volume 17, Issue 1, July 2016, Article number 93, Page 1.

The published version is available at DOI: 10.1186/s12931-016-0411-y. Copyright © Gharib et. al.


BACKGROUND: Sarcoidosis is a multisystem immuno-inflammatory disorder of unknown etiology that most commonly involves the lungs. We hypothesized that an unbiased approach to identify pathways activated in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) cells can shed light on the pathogenesis of this complex disease.

METHODS: We recruited 15 patients with various stages of sarcoidosis and 12 healthy controls. All subjects underwent bronchoscopy with lavage. For each subject, total RNA was extracted from BAL cells and hybridized to an Affymetrix U133A microarray. Rigorous statistical methods were applied to identify differential gene expression between subjects with sarcoidosis vs.

CONTROLS: To better elucidate pathways differentially activated between these groups, we integrated network and gene set enrichment analyses of BAL cell transcriptional profiles.

RESULTS: Sarcoidosis patients were either non-smokers or former smokers, all had lung involvement and only two were on systemic prednisone. Healthy controls were all non-smokers. Comparison of BAL cell gene expression between sarcoidosis and healthy subjects revealed over 1500 differentially expressed genes. Several previously described immune mediators, such as interferon gamma, were upregulated in the sarcoidosis subjects. Using an integrative computational approach we constructed a modular network of over 80 gene sets that were highly enriched in patients with sarcoidosis. Many of these pathways mapped to inflammatory and immune-related processes including adaptive immunity, T-cell signaling, graft vs. host disease, interleukin 12, 23 and 17 signaling. Additionally, we uncovered a close association between the proteasome machinery and adaptive immunity, highlighting a potentially important and targetable relationship in the pathobiology of sarcoidosis.

CONCLUSIONS: BAL cells in sarcoidosis are characterized by enrichment of distinct transcriptional programs involved in immunity and proteasomal processes. Our findings add to the growing evidence implicating alveolar resident immune effector cells in the pathogenesis of sarcoidosis and identify specific pathways whose activation may modulate disease progression.

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