As only some smokers develop COPD with emphysema, we explored the molecular pathogenesis of early-stage COPD with emphysema using gene expression profiling of human lung tissues.
First, 110 subjects who had smoked more than ten pack-years were classified into three groups: COPD with emphysema, COPD without emphysema, and healthy smokers. COPD and emphysema were confirmed by post-bronchodilator forced expiratory volume in 1 second/forced vital capacity <0.7 and by chest computed tomography. Lung tissues obtained surgically from the 110 subjects were processed and used for RNA-Seq analysis.
Among the 110 subjects, 29 had COPD with emphysema, 21 had COPD without emphysema, and 60 were healthy smokers; their mean post-bronchodilator forced expiratory volume in 1 second values were 78%, 80%, and 94%, respectively. Using RNA-Seq, we evaluated 16,676 genes expressed in lung tissues. Among them, 1,226 genes in the COPD with emphysema group and 434 genes in the COPD without emphysema group were differentially expressed genes compared to the expression in healthy smokers. In the COPD with emphysema group, ACER2 and LMAN2L were markedly increased and decreased, respectively. In the COPD without emphysema group, the CHRM3 gene, previously reported to be associated with COPD, and HDAC10 were markedly increased and decreased, respectively.