Background: Relapsing polychondritis (RPC) is a rare progressive autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation in the cartilage of multiple organs. Tracheobronchial involvement appears in nearly half of RPC patients during the course of their disease and represents the main cause of death. Localized tracheobronchial RPC is much rarer, and the pathogenesis remains unclear. Matrilin-1 is a non-collagenous cartilage matrix protein and has been suggested to be a potent autoantigen that induces the airway disease of RPC in animal models. However, the expression of matrilin-1 in tracheobronchial tissue in human remains unclear. Therefore, we examined the expression of matrilin-1 in the tracheal and auricular tissues in a localized tracheobronchial RPC patient. Case presentation: A 62-year-old man with systemic sclerosis presented with cough and dyspnea on exertion. The lung function test showed an expiratory flow limitation and chest computed tomography showed diffuse thickness from the trachea to the bronchiole. No other tests showed abnormal findings. To evaluate further, bronchoscopy was performed and endobronchial ultrasonography showed thickness in the fourth-marginal echo layer suggesting inflammation of the cartilage. However, the tracheal biopsy showed no specific findings. The subsequent surgical tracheal biopsies showed inflammatory cell infiltration with destruction of the cartilage. Neither auricular nor nasal deformity, except for a tracheobronchial lesion, was detected. Biopsy from the left auricular cartilage also did not show any inflammatory changes. Finally, we diagnosed the patient with localized tracheobronchial RPC. To address the hypothesis that autoimmunity against matrilin-1 is involved in the pathogenesis of localized tracheobronchial RPC, we evaluated the expression level of matrilin-1 in a tracheal and auricular specimen from this patient. Immunohistochemical staining with anti-matrilin-1 antibody showed matrilin-1 in the tracheal but not in the auricular cartilage. Conclusions: We first demonstrated the expression of matrilin-1 in tracheal but not in auricular cartilage in a localized tracheobronchial RPC patient. This result supports the possibility that matrilin-1 is involved in the pathogenesis of localized tracheobronchial RPC. However, this is only one case report and further observations will be needed to confirm this result.
- Relapsing polychondritis