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Background: Development of reliable new biomarkers remains crucial to improve diagnosis and assessing disease activity in sarcoidosis. The objective of this study was to seek such markers from the gene expression signature of alveolar macrophages by transcriptome analysis.
Methods: Pooled RNA extracted from alveolar macrophages from patients with active sarcoidosis and control patients was subjected to transcriptome analysis using microarrays. Expressed gene intensity in sarcoidosis relative to that in control was calculated. We measured serum cathepsin S (CTSS) concentrations in 89 healthy volunteers, 107 patients with sarcoidosis, 26 with interstitial pneumonia, 150 with pneumoconiosis, and 76 with pulmonary mycobacteriosis by the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.
Results: Among 12 genes with ratios higher than that of a housekeeping gene, we selected CTSS for scrutinizing protein expression in serum because of the feasibility of the protein assay. CTSS concentrations were significantly increased in sarcoidosis compared with not only controls but also all the other lung diseases. Receiver operating characteristics curve for sarcoidosis and parenchymal lung diseases revealed an area under the curve of 0.800 (95% confidence interval, 0.751-0.850; p=1.4 x 10-18) with 70% sensitivity and 78% specificity at a CTSS concentration of 15.5 ng/ml. A significant trend was identified between CTSS concentrations and the number of affected organs. Serum CTSS concentrations varied in parallel with clinical courses both spontaneously and in response to corticosteroid therapy. Epithelioid cells in granulomas were positive for immunohistochemical staining with CTSS.
Conclusions: CTSS has the potential to be a useful biomarker in sarcoidosis.