Aspergillus colonization after lung transplant is associated with an increased risk of chronic lung allograft dysfunction (CLAD). We hypothesized that gene expression during Aspergillus colonization could provide clues to CLAD pathogenesis.
We examined transcriptional profiles in 3- or 6-month surveillance bronchoalveolar lavage fluid cell pellets from recipients with Aspergillus fumigatus colonization (n = 12) and without colonization (n = 10). Among the Aspergillus colonized, we also explored profiles in those who developed CLAD (n = 6) or remained CLAD-free (n = 6). Transcription profiles were assayed with the HG-U133 Plus 2.0 microarray (Affymetrix). Differential gene expression was based on an absolute fold difference of 2.0 or greater and unadjusted P value less than 0.05. We used NIH Database for Annotation, Visualization and Integrated Discovery for functional analyses, with false discovery rates less than 5% considered significant.
Aspergillus colonization was associated with differential expression of 489 probe sets, representing 404 unique genes. "Defense response" genes and genes in the "cytokine-cytokine receptor" Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes pathway were notably enriched in this list. Among Aspergillus colonized patients, CLAD development was associated with differential expression of 69 probe sets, representing 64 unique genes. This list was enriched for genes involved in "immune response" and "response to wounding", among others. Notably, both chitinase 3-like-1 and chitotriosidase were associated with progression to CLAD.
Aspergillus colonization is associated with gene expression profiles related to defense responses including cytokine signaling. Epithelial wounding, as well as the innate immune response to chitin that is present in the fungal cell wall, may be key in the link between Aspergillus colonization and CLAD.