Myofibroblasts are increased in the lung parenchyma in asthma

S.R. Boser, T. Mauad, B.B. de Araujo-Paulino, I. Mitchell, G. Shrestha, A. Chiu, J. Butt, M.M. Kelly, E. Caldini, Alan James, F. Green

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29 Citations (Scopus)



Increased airway smooth muscle is observed in large and small airways in asthma. Semi-quantitative estimates suggest that cells containing alpha smooth muscle actin (alpha-SMA) are also increased in the lung parenchyma. This study quantified and characterized alpha-SMA positive cells (alpha-SMA+) in the lung parenchyma of non-asthmatic and asthmatic individuals.


Post-mortem sections of peripheral lung from cases of fatal asthma (FA), persons with asthma dying of non-respiratory causes (NFA) and non-asthma control subjects (NAC) were stained for alpha-SMA, quantified using point-counting and normalised to alveolar basement membrane length and interstitial area.


alpha-SMA+ fractional area was increased in alveolar parenchyma in both FA (14.7 +/- 2.8% of tissue area) and NFA (13.0 +/- 1.2%), compared with NAC (7.4 +/- 2.4%), p <0.05 The difference was greater in upper lobes compared with lower lobes (p <0.01) in both asthma groups. Similar changes were observed in alveolar ducts and alveolar walls. The electron microscopic features of the alpha-SMA+ cells were characteristic of myofibroblasts.


We conclude that in asthma there is a marked increase in alpha-SMA+ myofibroblasts in the lung parenchyma. The physiologic consequences of this increase are unknown.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0182378
Number of pages14
JournalPLoS One
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 7 Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


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