Background. Acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - typically caused by bacterial or viral infection - is associated with poor prognosis and emphysema progression through unknown mechanisms. We aimed to elucidate the mechanisms responsible for the poor prognosis and emphysema progression associated with COPD exacerbation. Methods. We established a mouse model mimicking acute human COPD exacerbation, wherein mice with elastase-induced emphysema were intranasally infected with Streptococcus pneumoniae. Results. In mice with elastase-induced emphysema, infection with S. pneumoniae resulted in increased mortality, an increased number of inflammatory cells in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF), and increased matrix metalloproteinase 12 (MMP-12) production in the lungs, as well as enhanced emphysema progression. The increased MMP-12 production was mostly due to alveolar type II cells, alveolar macrophages, and lymphocytes that aggregated around vessels and bronchioles. Dexamethasone treatment suppressed the mortality rate and number of inflammatory cells in BALF but not emphysema progression, possibly owing to the failure of MMP-12 suppression in the lungs, whereas treatment with the MMP inhibitor ONO-4817 dramatically suppressed both mortality rate and emphysema progression. Conclusions. These results suggest that MMP-12 production during COPD exacerbation results in increased mortality and emphysema progression. Our study identifies MMP-12 as a target to prevent further aggravation of COPD.
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