What is the role of antiprotease deficiency in alpha1-antitrypsin deficiency (AATD)?

Updated: Sep 11, 2020
  • Author: Dora E Izaguirre Anariba, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: John J Oppenheimer, MD  more...
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In healthy persons, alpha1-antiprotease serves as a protective screen that prevents alveolar wall destruction. The lungs have a large surface area and are continuously exposed to a high burden of airborne pathogens, which results in a cellular immune response. This is characterized by local release of oxidants and proteases. The presence of alpha1-antiprotease serves to keep these proteases in check and protect the lungs from unregulated protease activity. Individuals with the alpha1-antitrypsin genetic defect do not release alpha1-antiprotease from the liver, and serum and alveolar levels of the protein are low. Consequently, alveoli lack antiprotease protection. The imbalance of proteases-antiproteases in the alveoli leads to unopposed neutrophil elastase digestion of elastin and collagen in the alveolar walls and progressive emphysema.

Alveolar cell apoptosis may also play an important role in emphysema pathogenesis. Recent evidence suggests that alpha1-antiprotease may inhibit alveolar cell apoptosis and protect against emphysema in the absence of neutrophilic inflammation. [7]

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