Research – Open Access
Lei Liu†, Xin Zhang†, Ying Liu, Li Zhang, Jing Zheng, Ji Wang, Philip M. Hansbro, Lei Wang, Gang Wang and Alan Chen-Yu Hsu
Asthma is a heterogeneous chronic airway disease, which may be classified into different phenotypes. YKL-40 is a chitin-binding glycoprotein with unclear functions, but its expression is associated with inflammation and tissue remodeling. However, few studies have explored whether YKL-40 is associated with inflammatory phenotypes of asthma.
The study had two parts. Study I (n = 115) was a one-year prospective cohort designed to explore the relationship of serum YKL-40 levels with inflammatory phenotypes of asthma at baseline, and during exacerbations. Study II (n = 62) was a four-week prospective cohort designed to define whether serum YKL-40 levels could predict responses to a fixed anti-asthma regimen. YK
L-40, IL-6 and CCL22 levels were detected using ELISA, and a sputum inflammatory panel (including IL-1β, IL-5, IL-8 and TNF-α) was assessed using Luminex-based MILLIPLEX assay.
Study I: Serum YKL-40 levels in non-eosinophilic asthma (NEA) i.e. neutrophilic (47.77 [29.59, 74.97] ng/mL, n = 40) and paucigranulocytic (47.36 [28.81, 61.68] ng/mL, n = 31) were significantly elevated compared with eosinophilic asthma (31.05 [22.41, 51.10] ng/mL, n = 44) (P = 0.015). Serum YKL-40levels positively correlated with blood neutrophils, sputum IL-1β and plasma IL-6 but negatively correlated with serum IgE and blood eosinophils (all P ≤ 0.05). Baseline YKL-40 levels predicted moderate to severe exacerbations within a one-year period (aOR = 4.13, 95% CI = [1.08, 15.83]). Study II: Serum YKL-40 was an independent biomarker of negative responses to anti-asthma regimens (adjusted Odds Ratio [aOR] = 0.82, 95% CI = [0.71, 0.96].
These studies show that YKL-40 is a non-type 2 inflammatory signature for NEA, which could predict responsiveness or insensitivity to anti-asthma medications and more exacerbations. Further studies are needed to assess whether monitoring YKL-40 levels could provide potential implications for clinical relevance.