The apha-1-globulin fraction is mostly composed of alpha-1-glycoprotein and alpha-1-antitrypsin.
Alpha-1-glycoprotein (orosomucoid) is an acute-phase protein and is therefore an indicator of inflammation (rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, etc.). The level of inflammation is however more conveniently evaluated using the level of CRP (C-Reactive Protein) or the measurement of the sedimentation rate.
Alpha-1-antitrpysin (α-1-AT) is a protein that protects the lungs and liver from damage that could be caused by the activation of cell digesting enzymes, a normal body defence mechanism. Levels of α-1-AT are determined by two copies of a gene, each responsible for the synthesis of half of the available α-1-AT. Levels of α-1-AT below 30% of normal values indicate a risk of damage caused by the activation of the digesting enzymes (early pulmonary emphysema or liver cirrhosis). Low levels can also be observed in situations that lead to a general decline in serum proteins such as kidney disease, malnutrition and certain cancers.
Alpha-1-antitrypsin is an “acute-phase protein”. Levels will increase under acute or chronic inflammatory conditions, infections and certain cancers. These acute-phase increases could temporarily mask an otherwise genetically depressed α-1-AT level.