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Review

Protein biomarkers in cystic fibrosis research: where next?

Sally H Pattison and J Stuart Elborn*

Author Affiliations

Centre for Infection and Immunity, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast BT9 7BL, Northern Ireland, UK

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Genome Medicine 2010, 2:88  doi:10.1186/gm209

Published: 16 December 2010

Abstract

Cystic fibrosis is one of the most common life-limiting inherited disorders. Its clinical impact manifests chiefly in the lung, pancreas, gastrointestinal tract and sweat glands, with lung disease typically being most detrimental to health. The median age for survival has increased dramatically over the past decades, largely thanks to advances in understanding of the mechanisms and consequences of disease, leading to the development of better therapies and treatment regimes. The discovery of dysregulated protein biomarkers linked to cystic fibrosis has contributed considerably to this end. This article outlines clinical trials targeting known protein biomarkers, and the current and future contributions of proteomic techniques to cystic fibrosis research. The treatments described range from those designed to provide functional copies of the mutant protein responsible for cystic fibrosis, to others addressing the associated symptoms of chronic inflammation. Preclinical research has employed proteomics to help elucidate pathways and processes implicated in disease that might present opportunities for therapy or prognosis. Global analyses of cystic fibrosis have detected the differential expression of proteins involved in inflammation, proteolytic activity and oxidative stress, which are recognized symptoms of the cystic fibrosis phenotype. The dysregulation of other processes, such as the complement and mitochondrial systems, has also been implicated. A number of studies have focused specifically on proteins that interact with the cystic fibrosis protein, with the goal of restoring its normal proteostasis. Consequently, proteins involved in synthesis, folding, degradation, translocation and localization of the protein have been identified as potential therapeutic targets. Cystic fibrosis patients are prone to lung infections that are thought to contribute to chronic inflammation, and thus proteomic studies have also searched for microbiological biomarkers to use in early infection diagnosis or as indicators of virulence. The review concludes by proposing a future role for proteomics in the high-throughput validation of protein biomarkers under consideration as outcome measures for use in clinical trials and routine disease monitoring.