- Author(s): Last, JA
- Reiser, KM
- et al.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.8455169
Collagen is the major structural protein of the lung. At least five genetically distinct collagen types have been identified in lung tissue. However, the precise role of collagen in nonrespiratory lung function is not well understood, in part because of the difficulties inherent in studying lung collagen, regardless of the type of assay used. A major problem is the insolubility of lung collagen; generally less than 20% of total lung collagen can be solubilized as intact chains, even with harsh extraction procedures. Since such collagen may not be representative of total lung collagen, errors in quantitating collagen types, for example, may arise from using such material. Measurement of total lung collagen content may also pose problems, unless appropriate parameters of normalization are chosen. Biopsy dry weight, protein content, and DNA content, for example, may all change in certain disease states. Despite these difficulties, a number of changes in lung collagen have been documented in experimental pulmonary fibrosis, including increased collagen content, increased collagen synthesis rates, and changes in collagen type ratios. Many questions remain. For example, why do diverse toxic substances appear to cause essentially the same fibrotic response, even though initial sites of damage may vary? Conversely, why do similar toxic substances, such as ozone and NO2, cause diverse responses (fibrosis and emphysema, respectively)? Much work remains to be done to elucidate the mechanisms underlying the lung's choice of response.