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Alpha 1 Anti-Trypsin: One Protein, Many Functions

[ Vol. 12 , Issue. 7 ]


J. M. Hunt and R. Tuder   Pages 827 - 835 ( 9 )


α-1 anti-trypsin (AAT) is the most abundant circulating serine protease inhibitor (serpin) and an acute phase reactant. Systemic deficiency in AAT (AATD) due to genetic mutations can result in liver failure and chronic lung disease such as emphysema. Considered the prototypic serpin, the emphysema observed in patients with AATD, consisting of progressive destruction of the alveoli and small airway structures, formed the basis of the protease/anti-protease imbalance theory of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Over the past decade, however, investigations of AATD have described multiple functions of AAT beyond those generally attributed to its antiprotease activity. Evidence now suggests that AAT plays an important role in modulating immunity, inflammation, proteostasis, apoptosis, and possibly cellular senescence programs. When integrated in vivo, these processes contribute to the lung maintenance program which preserves the lung despite a constant bombardment by damage associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) and/or pathogenassociated molecular patterns (PAMPs) initiated by cigarette smoke, pollutants, or infections. In this review, we discuss the clinical aspects of AATD as they pertain to emphysema; including similarities and differences to cigarette smoke-induced emphysema. Examining the lung maintenance program, we next consider the multiple mechanisms of airspace destruction and explore the role AATD contributes. Finally, we consider the data regarding treatment of AATD, including AAT supplementation and its current limitations, and suggest further avenues of research informed by the multiple functions of AAT.


Alpha-1 antitrypsin, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, apoptosis, COPD, emphysema, inflammation, proteinase inhibitor, serpin, protease inhibitor, phenotypes, mutations, isoelectric gradient, polymerization, anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody, dyspnea


Division of Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care Medicine, Anschutz Medical Campus, University of Colorado Denver, Research 2 – 9th Floor; Mail Stop C-272, 12700 East 19th Avenue, Aurora, CO 80045, USA.

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