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1.  Increased proinflammatory responses from asthmatic human airway smooth muscle cells in response to rhinovirus infection 
Respiratory Research  2006;7(1):71.
Exacerbations of asthma are associated with viral respiratory tract infections, of which rhinoviruses (RV) are the predominant virus type. Airway smooth muscle is important in asthma pathogenesis, however little is known about the potential interaction of RV and human airway smooth muscle cells (HASM). We hypothesised that rhinovirus induction of inflammatory cytokine release from airway smooth muscle is augmented and differentially regulated in asthmatic compared to normal HASM cells.
HASM cells, isolated from either asthmatic or non-asthmatic subjects, were infected with rhinovirus. Cytokine production was assayed by ELISA, ICAM-1 cell surface expression was assessed by FACS, and the transcription regulation of IL-6 was measured by luciferase activity.
RV-induced IL-6 release was significantly greater in HASM cells derived from asthmatic subjects compared to non-asthmatic subjects. This response was RV specific, as 5% serum- induced IL-6 release was not different in the two cell types. Whilst serum stimulated IL-8 production in cells from both subject groups, RV induced IL-8 production in only asthmatic derived HASM cells. The transcriptional induction of IL-6 was differentially regulated via C/EBP in the asthmatic and NF-κB + AP-1 in the non-asthmatic HASM cells.
This study demonstrates augmentation and differential transcriptional regulation of RV specific innate immune response in HASM cells derived from asthmatic and non-asthmatics, and may give valuable insight into the mechanisms of RV-induced asthma exacerbations.
PMCID: PMC1534024  PMID: 16670028
2.  TLR3, TLR4 and TLRs7–9 Induced Interferons Are Not Impaired in Airway and Blood Cells in Well Controlled Asthma 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65921.
Defective Rhinovirus induced interferon-β and interferon-λ production has been reported in bronchial epithelial cells from asthmatics but the mechanisms of defective interferon induction in asthma are unknown. Virus infection can induce interferon through Toll like Receptors (TLR)3, TLR7 and TLR8. The role of these TLRs in interferon induction in asthma is unclear. This objective of this study was to measure the type I and III interferon response to TLR in bronchial epithelial cells and peripheral blood cells from atopic asthmatics and non-atopic non-asthmatics. Bronchial epithelial cells and peripheral blood mononuclear cells from atopic asthmatic and non-atopic non-asthmatic subjects were stimulated with agonists to TLR3, TLR4 & TLRs7–9 and type I and III interferon and pro-inflammatory cytokine, interleukin(IL)-6 and IL-8, responses assessed. mRNA expression was analysed by qPCR. Interferon proteins were analysed by ELISA. Pro-inflammatory cytokines were induced by each TLR ligand in both cell types. Ligands to TLR3 and TLR7/8, but not other TLRs, induced interferon-β and interferon-λ in bronchial epithelial cells. The ligand to TLR7/8, but not those to other TLRs, induced only type I interferons in peripheral blood mononuclear cells. No difference was observed in TLR induced interferon or pro-inflammatory cytokine production between asthmatic and non-asthmatic subjects from either cell type. TLR3 and TLR7/8,, stimulation induced interferon in bronchial epithelial cells and peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Interferon induction to TLR agonists was not observed to be different in asthmatics and non-asthmatics.
PMCID: PMC3688823  PMID: 23824215
3.  Atopic Asthmatics but not atopics without asthma have enhanced inflammatory response to ozone 
Asthma is a known risk factor for acute ozone-associated respiratory disease. Ozone (O3) causes an immediate decrease in lung function and increased airway inflammation. The role of atopy and asthma in modulation of O3-induced inflammation has not been determined.
To determine if atopic status modulates O3 response phenotypes in humans.
Fifty volunteers (25 normal volunteers, 14 atopic non-asthmatics, 11 atopic asthmatics not requiring maintenance therapy) underwent a 0.4 ppm O3 exposure protocol. Ozone response was determined by changes in lung function and induced sputum composition, including airway inflammatory cell concentration, cell surface markers, cytokine and hyaluronic acid concentration.
All cohorts experienced similar decreases in lung function post O3. Atopics and atopic asthmatics had increased sputum neutrophils and IL-8 after O3 exposure; levels did not significantly change in normal volunteers. Following O3 exposure, atopic asthmatics had significantly increased sputum IL-6 and IL-1 β, and airway macrophage TLR4, FceRI, and CD23 expression; levels in normal volunteers and atopic non-asthmatics showed no significant change. Atopic asthmatics had significantly decreased IL-10 at baseline compared to normal volunteers: IL-10 did not significantly change in any group with O3. All groups had similar levels of hyaluronic acid at baseline, with increased levels after O3 exposure in atopics and atopic asthmatics.
Atopic asthmatics have increased airway inflammatory responses to O3. Elevated TLR4 expression suggests a potential pathway through which O3 generates the inflammatory response in allergic asthmatics but not in atopics without asthma.
Clinical Implications
These observations suggest that mild atopic asthma confers increased risk for exacerbation of O3-induced lung disease through promoting an enhanced innate immune inflammatory response to O3.
PMCID: PMC2949284  PMID: 20816188
ozone; innate immunity; asthma; atopy; hyaluronic acid; environmental airways disease; interleukin-1 beta; interleukin-10
4.  T cell cytokine profiles in childhood asthma 
Thorax  2003;58(4):311-316.
Background: An imbalance of T cell subsets in asthma with a predominance of Th2 type cells has been proposed. The aim of this study was simultaneously to detect surface markers and intracellular production of cytokines in T cells from the airways of children with and without asthma.
Methods: Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid was obtained by wedging a suction catheter into the distal airway immediately before elective surgery. Cells were stimulated with phorbol 12-myristrate 13-acetate (PMA) and ionomycin and intracytoplasmic cytokine retention was achieved using monensin. The cells were stained with the relevant antibodies and analysed by flow cytometry.
Results: No statistical difference was observed between children with atopic asthma, atopic non-asthmatic subjects, and normal controls in the percentage of CD3+ cells producing interleukin (IL)-2 or IL-4. Interferon (IFN)γ+ T cells were, however, present in a much higher percentage than either IL-2 or IL-4 positive cells. The percentage of IFNγ+ T cells was significantly increased in subjects with atopic asthma (median 71.3%, interquartile range (IQR) 65.1–82.2, n=13) compared with both atopic non-asthmatic subjects (51.9%, IQR 37.2–70.3, n=12), p<0.05 and normal controls (58.1%, IQR 36.1–66.1, n=23), p<0.01.
Conclusions: These findings indicate that IFNγ producing T cells are more abundant in the airways of children with atopic asthma than in atopic non-asthmatic subjects and controls. The proinflammatory activities of IFNγ may play an important role in the pathogenesis of childhood asthma and may suggest that asthma is not simply a Th2 driven response.
PMCID: PMC1746655  PMID: 12668793
5.  Asthma and gender impact accumulation of T cell subtypes 
Respiratory Research  2010;11(1):103.
The "Th2 hypothesis for asthma" asserts that an increased ratio of Th2:Th1 cytokine production plays an important pathogenic role in asthma. Although widely embraced, the hypothesis has been challenged by various empirical observations and has been described as overly simplistic. We sought to establish whether CD3+CD28-mediated and antigen-independent accumulation of type 1 and type 2 T cells differs significantly between nonasthmatic and asthmatic populations.
An ex vivo system was used to characterize the regulation of IFN-γ-producing (type 1) and IL-13-producing (type 2) T cell accumulation in response to CD3+CD28 and IL-2 stimulation by flow cytometry.
IL-13-producing T cells increased in greater numbers in response to antigen-independent stimulation in peripheral blood lymphocytes from female atopic asthmatic subjects compared with male asthmatics and both male and female atopic non-asthmatic subjects. IFN-γ+ T cells increased in greater numbers in response to either antigen-independent or CD3+CD28-mediated stimulation in peripheral blood lymphocytes from atopic asthmatic subjects compared to non-asthmatic subjects, regardless of gender.
We demonstrate that T cells from asthmatics are programmed for increased accumulation of both type 2 and type 1 T cells. Gender had a profound effect on the regulation of type 2 T cells, thus providing a mechanism for the higher frequency of adult asthma in females.
PMCID: PMC2919468  PMID: 20667106
6.  Rhinovirus-induced basic fibroblast growth factor release mediates airway remodeling features 
Human rhinoviruses, major precipitants of asthma exacerbations, induce lower airway inflammation and mediate angiogenesis. The purpose of this study was to assess the possibility that rhinoviruses may also contribute to the fibrotic component of airway remodeling.
Levels of basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) mRNA and protein were measured following rhinovirus infection of bronchial epithelial cells. The profibrotic effect of epithelial products was assessed by DNA synthesis and matrix metalloproteinase activity assays. Moreover, epithelial cells were exposed to supernatants from cultured peripheral blood mononuclear cells, obtained from healthy donors or atopic asthmatic subjects and subsequently infected by rhinovirus and bFGF release was estimated. bFGF was also measured in respiratory secretions from atopic asthmatic patients before and during rhinovirus-induced asthma exacerbations.
Rhinovirus epithelial infection stimulated mRNA expression and release of bFGF, the latter being positively correlated with cell death under conditions promoting rhinovirus-induced cytotoxicity. Supernatants from infected cultures induced lung fibroblast proliferation, which was inhibited by anti-bFGF antibody, and demonstrated increased matrix metalloproteinase activity. Rhinovirus-mediated bFGF release was significantly higher in an in vitro simulation of atopic asthmatic environment and, importantly, during rhinovirus-associated asthma exacerbations.
Rhinovirus infection induces bFGF release by airway epithelium, and stimulates stroma cell proliferation contributing to airway remodeling in asthma. Repeated rhinovirus infections may promote asthma persistence, particularly in the context of atopy; prevention of such infections may influence the natural history of asthma.
PMCID: PMC3492082  PMID: 22908984
Airway remodeling; Asthma; BFGF; Bronchial epithelium; Rhinovirus
7.  A detailed phenotypic analysis of immune cell populations in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid of atopic asthmatics after segmental allergen challenge 
Atopic asthma is characterized by intermittent exacerbations triggered by exposure to allergen. Exacerbations are characterized by an acute inflammatory reaction in the airways, with recruitment of both innate and adaptive immune cells. These cell populations as well as soluble factors are critical for initiating and controlling the inflammatory processes in allergic asthma. Detailed data on the numbers and types of cells recruited following allergen challenge is lacking. In this paper we present an extensive phenotypic analysis of the inflammatory cell infiltrate present in the bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid following bronchoscopically directed allergen challenge in mild atopic asthmatics.
A re-analysis of pooled data obtained prior to intervention in our randomized, placebo controlled, double blinded study (costimulation inhibition in asthma trial [CIA]) was performed. Twenty-four subjects underwent bronchoscopically directed segmental allergen challenge followed by BAL collection 48 hours later. The BAL fluid was analyzed by multi-color flow cytometry for immune cell populations and multi-plex ELISA for cytokine detection.
Allergen instillation induced pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-6) and immune modulating cytokines (IL-2, IFN-γ, and IL-10) along with an increase in lymphocytes and suppressor cells (Tregs and MDSC). Interestingly, membrane expression of CD30 was identified on lymphocytes, especially Tregs, but not eosinophils. Soluble CD30 was also detected in the BAL fluid after allergen challenge in adult atopic asthmatics.
After segmental allergen challenge of adult atopic asthmatics, cell types associated with a pro-inflammatory as well as an anti-inflammatory response are detected within the BAL fluid of the lung.
PMCID: PMC3848528  PMID: 24330650
T lymphocyte; CD30 expression; Segmental allergen challenge; Asthma
8.  In vitro effects of fluticasone propionate on IL-13 production by mitogen-stimulated lymphocytes. 
Mediators of Inflammation  2002;11(3):187-190.
BACKGROUND: Corticosteroid administration produces multiple immunomodulatory effects, including down-regulation of cytokine production by CD4 T lymphocytes. Fluticasone propionate (FP) (Glaxo Smith&Kline, Greenford, UK), a highly lipophilic topical corticosteroid, has been shown to be safe and effective in the treatment of asthma and of both seasonal and perennial rhinitis. AIMS: To gain insight into the mechanisms of FP therapeutic effects, we evaluated interleukin (IL)-13 (a type 2 cytokine that seemingly plays a pivotal role in allergic mechanisms) production by mitogen-stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (MNC) in vitro, treated or not with FP. METHODS: MNC from 10 healthy subjects and 10 asthmatic atopic patients with Parietaria allergy were stimulated v/v with phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) (50 gamma/ml) or with complete medium alone as a control. Culture supernatants, in vitro treated or not with 10(-7) or 10(-8) M FP, were collected after 48 or 72 h incubation. IL-13 production was assessed by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. In random selected samples, after 4 or 24 h of cell cultures, RNA was extracted and IL-4 and IL-5 reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) products analyzed. RESULTS: At 48 h, there were no differences in IL-13 concentration in PHA-stimulated cultures between healthy subjects and asthmatic patients (93.6 +/- 18.9 versus 111.0 +/- 25.1 pg/ml). At 72 h, similar results were obtained (63.9 +/- 3.0 versus 73.3 +/- 2.5 pg/ml, respectively). At this time, however, IL-13 concentrations were significantly decreased versus 48 h both in asthmatics (p < 0.001) and in controls (p < 0.001). Treatment with 10(-7) M FP significantly reduced IL-13 production in healthy subjects and asthmatic patients both at 48 h (93.6 +/- 18.9 versus 50.50 +/- 10.6 pg/ml, p < 0.001, and 111.0 +/- 25.1 versus 59.3 +/- 13.6 pg/ml, p < 0.001, respectively) and at 72 h (63.9 +/- 9.6 versus 35.5 +/- 4.4 pg/ml, p < 0.001, and 73.3 +/- 8.0 versus 40.7 +/- 4.5 pg/ml, p < 0.001, respectively). Similar results were obtained with 10(-8) M FP at 48 and 72 h. Accordingly, evaluation of RT-PCR products from selected cell samples showed a FP dosage-dependent inhibition of IL-4 and IL-5 mRNA production both for healthy subjects and asthmatic patients. CONCLUSIONS: FP in vitro impairs IL-13 production by PHA-stimulated MNC from asthmatic and control subjects. This strengthens previous suggestions that IL-13 inhibition by steroids may, at least in part, account for their therapeutic effects.
PMCID: PMC1781657  PMID: 12137248
9.  Differences in allergen-induced T cell activation between allergic asthma and rhinitis: Role of CD28, ICOS and CTLA-4 
Respiratory Research  2011;12(1):25.
Th2 cell activation and T regulatory cell (Treg) deficiency are key features of allergy. This applies for asthma and rhinitis. However with a same atopic background, some patients will develop rhinitis and asthma, whereas others will display rhinitis only. Co-receptors are pivotal in determining the type of T cell activation, but their role in allergic asthma and rhinitis has not been explored. Our objective was to assess whether allergen-induced T cell activation differs from allergic rhinitis to allergic rhinitis with asthma, and explore the role of ICOS, CD28 and CTLA-4.
T cell co-receptor and cytokine expressions were assessed by flow cytometry in PBMC from 18 house dust mite (HDM) allergic rhinitics (R), 18 HDM allergic rhinitics and asthmatics (AR), 13 non allergic asthmatics (A) and 20 controls, with or without anti-co-receptors antibodies.
In asthmatics (A+AR), a constitutive decrease of CTLA-4+ and of CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ cells was found, with an increase of IFN-γ+ cells. In allergic subjects (R + AR), allergen stimulation induced CD28 together with IL-4 and IL-13, and decreased the proportion of CTLA-4+, IL-10+ and CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ cells. Anti-ICOS and anti-CD28 antibodies blocked allergen-induced IL-4 and IL-13. IL-13 production also involved CTLA-4.
T cell activation differs between allergic rhinitis and asthma. In asthma, a constitutive, co-receptor independent, Th1 activation and Treg deficiency is found. In allergic rhinitis, an allergen-induced Treg cell deficiency is seen, as well as an ICOS-, CD28- and CTLA-4-dependent Th2 activation. Allergic asthmatics display both characteristics.
PMCID: PMC3051906  PMID: 21356099
10.  The Role of IL-15 Deficiency in the Pathogenesis of Virus-Induced Asthma Exacerbations 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(7):e1002114.
Rhinovirus infections are the major cause of asthma exacerbations. We hypothesised that IL-15, a cytokine implicated in innate and acquired antiviral immunity, may be deficient in asthma and important in the pathogenesis of asthma exacerbations. We investigated regulation of IL-15 induction by rhinovirus in human macrophages in vitro, IL-15 levels in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid and IL-15 induction by rhinovirus in BAL macrophages from asthmatic and control subjects, and related these to outcomes of infection in vivo. Rhinovirus induced IL-15 in macrophages was replication-, NF-κB- and α/β interferon-dependent. BAL macrophage IL-15 induction by rhinovirus was impaired in asthmatics and inversely related to lower respiratory symptom severity during experimental rhinovirus infection. IL-15 levels in BAL fluid were also decreased in asthmatics and inversely related with airway hyperresponsiveness and with virus load during in vivo rhinovirus infection. Deficient IL-15 production in asthma may be important in the pathogenesis of asthma exacerbations.
Author Summary
We previously reported deficiency in interferon production in asthma, which correlated with disease severity and viral load during experimental rhinovirus infection. Here we show that macrophages produce IL-15 upon rhinovirus infection and that IFN-β plays an important role in IL-15 production. In asthmatic subjects, there is a deficiency in rhinovirus-induced production of IL-15 by macrophages, which indicates immunodeficiency in asthma is surprisingly broad, also involving IL-15, an important cytokine that bridges innate and acquired immunity. These results show that IFN-β therapy in asthma exacerbations could be effective not only due to direct anti-viral effects of IFN-β, but also by inducing IL-15 production. We also show induction of IFN-β and IL-15 to be NF-kB dependent, an important finding which has implications for NF-kB inhibitor drug development programmes as these drugs have potential to worsen rather than improve asthma exacerbation severity, by further enhancing deficiencies of IL-15 and IFN-β. This study investigating the role of IL-15 in rhinovirus infection and asthma has also major implications in other diseases, for example pandemic influenza, where asthma is a major risk factor for severe disease and death, and COPD and cystic fibrosis where IFN-β deficiency is also present.
PMCID: PMC3136447  PMID: 21779162
11.  Roles for the High Affinity IgE Receptor, FcεRI, of Human Basophils in the Pathogenesis and Therapy of Allergic Asthma: Disease Promotion, Protection or Both? 
The open allergy journal  2010;3:91-101.
The role of basophils, the rarest of blood granulocytes, in the pathophysiology of allergic asthma is still incompletely understood. Indirect evidence generated over many decades is consistent with a role for basophils in disease promotion. Recent improvements in procedures to purify and analyze very small numbers of human cells have generally supported this view, but have also revealed new complexities.
This chapter focuses on our analyses of Fcε R1 function in basophils in the context of understanding and treating human allergic asthma. In long-term studies, we demonstrated that asthmatic subjects have higher circulating numbers of basophils than non-atopic non-asthmatic subjects and that their basophils show higher rates of both basal and anti-IgE or antigen-stimulated histamine release. These results hint at a direct role for basophils in promoting asthma. Supporting this interpretation, the non-releaser phenotype that we linked to the excessive proteolysis of Syk via the ubiquitin/proteasomal pathway is less common in basophils from asthmatic than non-asthmatic donors. The discovery of a basophil-specific pathway regulating Syk levels presents a clear opportunity for therapy. Another route to therapy was revealed by evidence that basophil FcεRI signaling can be downregulated by co-crosslinking the ITAM-containing IgE receptor, FcγRI, to the ITIM-containing IgG receptor, FcγRIIB. Based on this discovery, hybrid co-crosslinking fusion proteins are being engineered as potential therapies targeting basophils. A third distinguishing property of human basophils is their high dependence on IgE binding to stabilize membrane FcεRI. The circulating IgE scavenging mAb, Omalizumab, reduces FcεRI expression in basophils from asthmatics by over 95% and produces a substantial impairment of IL-4, IL-8 and IL-13 production in response to the crosslinking of residual cell surface IgE-FcεRI. A search for small molecule inhibitors that similarly impair high affinity IgE binding to basophils may yield reagents that mimic Omalizumab’s therapeutic benefits without the potential for immune side effects.
Although studies on allergen and FcεRI-mediated basophil activation all point to a role in promoting disease, a case can also be made for an alternative or additional role of basophil FcεRI in protection against allergic asthma. Human basophils have high affinities for IgE, they upregulate receptor levels over a >100-fold range as circulating IgE levels increase and they have short half-lives in the circulation. Thus, when allergen is absent, basophil FcεRI could serve as scavengers of serum IgE and therefore protectors against mast cell IgE-mediated inflammatory responses. Further studies are clearly needed to determine if FcεR-expressing basophils play pathogenic or protective roles – or both – in human allergic asthma and other IgE-mediated inflammatory disorders.
PMCID: PMC4090948  PMID: 25018787
Allergic asthma; basophils; FcεRI; IgE; pathogenesis; therapy
12.  Budesonide and Formoterol Reduce Early Innate Anti-Viral Immune Responses In Vitro 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e27898.
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory airways disease in which respiratory viral infections frequently trigger exacerbations. Current treatment of asthma with combinations of inhaled corticosteroids and long acting beta2 agonists improves asthma control and reduces exacerbations but what impact this might have on innate anti-viral immunity is unclear. We investigated the in vitro effects of asthma drugs on innate anti-viral immunity. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from healthy and asthmatic donors were cultured for 24 hours with the Toll-like receptor 7 agonist, imiquimod, or rhinovirus 16 (RV16) in the presence of budesonide and/or formoterol. Production of proinflammatory cytokines and expression of anti-viral intracellular signalling molecules were measured by ELISA and RT-PCR respectively. In PBMC from healthy donors, budesonide alone inhibited IP-10 and IL-6 production induced by imiquimod in a concentration-dependent manner and the degree of inhibition was amplified when budesonide and formoterol were used in combination. Formoterol alone had little effect on these parameters, except at high concentrations (10−6 M) when IL-6 production increased. In RV16 stimulated PBMC, the combination of budesonide and formoterol inhibited IFNα and IP-10 production in asthmatic as well as healthy donors. Combination of budesonide and formoterol also inhibited RV16-stimulated expression of the type I IFN induced genes myxovirus protein A and 2′, 5′ oligoadenylate synthetise. Notably, RV16 stimulated lower levels of type Myxovirus A and oligoadenylate synthase in PBMC of asthmatics than control donors. These in vitro studies demonstrate that combinations of drugs commonly used in asthma therapy inhibit both early pro-inflammatory cytokines and key aspects of the type I IFN pathway. These findings suggest that budesonide and formoterol curtail excessive inflammation induced by rhinovirus infections in patients with asthma, but whether this inhibits viral clearance in vivo remains to be determined.
PMCID: PMC3220700  PMID: 22125636
13.  Influenza enhances caspase-1 in bronchial epithelial cells from asthmatics and is associated with pathogenesis 
The leading cause of asthma exacerbation is respiratory viral infection. Innate antiviral defense pathways are altered in the asthmatic epithelium, yet involvement of inflammasome signaling in virus-induced asthma exacerbation is not known.
To compare influenza-induced activation of inflammasome and innate immune signaling in human bronchial epithelial cells from asthmatics and non-asthmatics and investigate the role of caspase-1 in epithelial cell antiviral defense.
Differentiated primary human bronchial epithelial cells from asthmatics and non-asthmatics were infected with influenza A virus. An inflammasome-specific quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction array was used to compare baseline and influenza-induced gene expression profiles. Cytokine secretion, innate immune gene expression, and viral replication were compared between human bronchial epithelial cells from asthmatics and non-asthmatics. Immunofluorescence microscopy was used to evaluate caspase-1 and PYCARD co-localization. Tracheal epithelial cells from caspase-1 deficient or wildtype mice were infected with influenza and assessed for antiviral gene expression and viral replication.
Human bronchial epithelial cells from asthmatics had altered influenza-induced expression of inflammasome-related and innate immune signaling components, which correlated with enhanced production of interlukin-1β, interleukin-6, and tumor necrosis factor-α. Specifically, influenza-induced caspase-1 expression was enhanced and localization differed in human bronchial epithelial cells from asthmatics compared to non-asthmatics. Influenza-infected tracheal epithelial cells from caspase-1 deficient mice had reduced expression of antiviral genes and viral replication.
Caspase-1 plays an important role in the airway epithelial cell response to influenza infection, which is enhanced in asthmatics and may contribute to the enhanced influenza related pathogenesis observed in vivo.
PMCID: PMC3470476  PMID: 23021143
epithelial cell; asthma; influenza; antiviral; inflammasome; caspase-1; innate immunity
14.  Genome-wide methylation profiling of the bronchial mucosa of asthmatics: relationship to atopy 
BMC Medical Genetics  2013;14:39.
Asthma is a common respiratory disease that is characterized by bronchial hyperresponsiveness and airway obstruction due to chronic airway inflammation. Atopic asthma is a typical IgE-mediated disease in which the enhanced production of IgE is driven by the activation of Th2 cells, which release a distinct pattern of cytokines, including interleukin 4 (IL4) and IL3, in response to specific antigen presentation. To evaluate the methylation status of the whole genomes of bronchial mucosa tissues from subjects who lacked or had sensitization to Dermatophagoides farina (Df) and Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus (Dp).
The genome-wide DNA methylation levels in the bronchial mucosa tissues of atopic asthmatics (N = 10), non-atopic asthmatics (N = 7), and normal controls (N = 7) were examined using microarrays.
In the bronchial mucosa of atopic asthmatics, hypermethylation was detected at 6 loci in 6 genes, while hypomethylation was detected at 49 loci in 48 genes compared to those of non-atopic asthmatics. Genes that were assigned the ontologies of multicellular organismal process, response to organic substance, hormone metabolic process, and growth factor receptor binding were hypomethylated. The methylation levels in the mucosa of asthmatics and normal controls were similar.
The bronchial mucosa of asthmatics who are atopic to Df or Dp have characteristic methylation patterns for 52 genes. The genes and pathways identified in the present study may be associated with the presence of atopy in asthmatics and therefore represent attractive targets for future research.
PMCID: PMC3616917  PMID: 23521807
Asthma; Bronchial mucosa; Atopy; DNA methylation; Epigenetics; Environmental factor
15.  IL-25 augments type 2 immune responses by enhancing the expansion and functions of TSLP-DC–activated Th2 memory cells 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2007;204(8):1837-1847.
Interleukin (IL) 25 (IL-17E), a distinct member of the IL-17 cytokine family, plays important roles in evoking T helper type 2 (Th2) cell–mediated inflammation that features the infiltrations of eosinophils and Th2 memory cells. However, the cellular sources, target cells, and underlying mechanisms remain elusive in humans. We demonstrate that human Th2 memory cells expressing distinctive levels of IL-25 receptor (R) are one of the responding cell types. IL-25 promotes cell expansion and Th2 cytokine production when Th2 central memory cells are stimulated with thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP)–activated dendritic cells (DCs), homeostatic cytokines, or T cell receptor for antigen triggering. The enhanced functions of Th2 memory cells induced by IL-25 are associated with sustained expression of GATA-3, c-MAF, and JunB in an IL-4–independent manner. Although keratinocytes, mast cells, eosinophils, and basophils express IL-25 transcripts, activated eosinophils and basophils from normal and atopic subjects were found to secrete bioactive IL-25 protein, which augments the functions of Th2 memory cells. Elevated expression of IL-25 and IL-25R transcripts was observed in asthmatic lung tissues and atopic dermatitis skin lesions, linking their possible roles with exacerbated allergic disorders. Our results provide a plausible explanation that IL-25 produced by innate effector eosinophils and basophils may augment the allergic inflammation by enhancing the maintenance and functions of adaptive Th2 memory cells.
PMCID: PMC2118667  PMID: 17635955
16.  Autocrine interaction between IL-5 and IL-1β mediates altered responsiveness of atopic asthmatic sensitized airway smooth muscle 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1999;104(5):657-667.
T-helper type 2 (Th2) cytokines have been implicated in the pathogenesis of the pulmonary inflammatory response and altered bronchial responsiveness in allergic asthma. To elucidate the mechanism of Th2-dependent mediation of altered airway responsiveness in the atopic asthmatic state, the expression and actions of specific cytokines were examined in isolated rabbit and human airway smooth muscle (ASM) tissues and cultured cells passively sensitized with sera from atopic asthmatic patients or nonatopic/nonasthmatic (control) subjects. Relative to control tissues, the atopic asthmatic sensitized ASM exhibited significantly enhanced maximal isometric contractility to acetylcholine and attenuated relaxation responses to isoproterenol. These proasthmatic changes in agonist responsiveness were ablated by pretreating the atopic sensitized tissues with either an IL-5 receptor blocking antibody (IL-5ra) or the human recombinant IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra), whereas an IL-4 neutralizing antibody had no effect. Moreover, relative to controls, atopic asthmatic sensitized ASM cells demonstrated an initial, early (after 3 hours of incubation) increased mRNA expression and protein release of IL-5. This was followed (after 6 hours of incubation) by an enhanced mRNA expression and release of IL-1β protein, an effect that was inhibited in sensitized cells pretreated with IL-5ra. Extended studies demonstrated that naive ASM exposed to exogenously administered IL-5 exhibited an induced upregulated mRNA expression and protein release of IL-1β associated with proasthmatic-like changes in ASM constrictor and relaxant responsiveness, and that these effects were ablated in tissues pretreated with IL-1ra. Taken together, these observations provide new evidence that (a) the Th2 cytokine IL-5 and the pleiotropic proinflammatory cytokine IL-1β are endogenously released by atopic asthmatic sensitized ASM and mechanistically interact to mediate the proasthmatic perturbations in ASM responsiveness; and (b) the nature of this interaction is given by an initial endogenous release of IL-5, which then acts to induce the autologous release of IL-1β by the sensitized ASM itself, resulting in its autocrine manifestation of the proasthmatic phenotype.
PMCID: PMC408541  PMID: 10487780
17.  A defective type 1 response to rhinovirus in atopic asthma 
Thorax  2002;57(4):328-332.
Background: Rhinoviruses (RVs) are the most frequent precipitants of the common cold and asthma exacerbations, but little is known about the immune response to these viruses and its potential implications in the pathogenesis of asthma.
Methods: Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from patients with atopic asthma and normal subjects were exposed to live or inactivated RV preparations. Levels of interferon (IFN)γ and interleukins IL-12, IL-10, IL-4, IL-5 and IL-13 were evaluated in the culture supernatants with specific immunoassays.
Results: Exposure of PBMC to RVs induced the production of IFNγ, IL-12, IL-10, and IL-13. Cells from asthmatic subjects produced significantly lower levels of IFNγ and IL-12 and higher levels of IL-10 than normal subjects. IL-4 was induced only in the asthmatic group, while the IFNγ/IL-4 ratio was more than three times lower in the asthmatic group.
Conclusions: This evidence suggests that the immune response to RVs is not uniquely of a type 1 phenotype, as previously suggested. The type 1 response is defective in atopic asthmatic individuals, with a shift towards a type 2 phenotype in a way similar, but not identical, to their aberrant response to allergens. A defective type 1 immune response to RVs may be implicated in the pathogenesis of virus induced exacerbations of asthma.
PMCID: PMC1746310  PMID: 11923551
18.  Regulation of TH1- and TH2-type cytokine expression and action in atopic asthmatic sensitized airway smooth muscle 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1999;103(7):1077-1087.
CD4+ T helper (TH)1- and TH2-type cytokines reportedly play an important role in the pathobiology of asthma. Recent evidence suggests that proasthmatic changes in airway smooth muscle (ASM) responsiveness may be induced by the autocrine release of certain proinflammatory cytokines by the ASM itself. We examined whether TH1- and TH2-type cytokines are expressed by atopic asthmatic sensitized ASM and serve to autologously regulate the proasthmatic phenotype in the sensitized ASM. Expression of these cytokines and their receptors was examined in isolated rabbit and human ASM tissues and cultured cells passively sensitized with sera from atopic asthmatic patients or control subjects. Relative to controls, atopic sensitized ASM cells exhibited an early increased mRNA expression of the TH2-type cytokines, interleukin-5 (IL-5) and granulocyte–macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), and their receptors. This was later followed by enhanced mRNA expression of the TH1-type cytokines, IL-2, IL-12, and interferon-γ (IFN-γ), as well as their respective receptors. In experiments on isolated ASM tissue segments (a) exogenous administration of IL-2 and IFN-γ to atopic asthmatic serum–sensitized ASM ablated both their enhanced constrictor responsiveness to acetylcholine (ACh) and their attenuated relaxation responsiveness to β-adrenoceptor stimulation with isoproterenol, and (b) administration of IL-5 and GM-CSF to naive ASM induced significant increases in their contractility to ACh and impaired their relaxant responsiveness to isoproterenol. Collectively, these observations provide new evidence demonstrating that human ASM endogenously expresses both TH1- and TH2-type cytokines and their receptors, that these molecules are sequentially upregulated in the atopic asthmatic sensitized state, and that they act to downregulate and upregulate proasthmatic perturbations in ASM responsiveness, respectively.
PMCID: PMC408262  PMID: 10194481
19.  New insights into the role of cytokines in asthma 
Journal of Clinical Pathology  2001;54(8):577-589.
Asthma is a triad of intermittent airway obstruction, bronchial smooth muscle cell hyperreactivity to bronchoconstrictors, and chronic bronchial inflammation. From an aetiological standpoint, asthma is a heterogenous disease, but often appears as a form of immediate hypersensitivity. Many patients with asthma have other manifestations of atopy, such as rhinitis or eczema. Even among non-atopic patients with asthma, the pathophysiology of airway constriction is similar, raising the hypothesis that alternative mechanisms of mast cell degranulation may underlie the disease. The primary inflammatory lesion of asthma consists of accumulation of CD4+ T helper type 2 (TH2) lymphocytes and eosinophils in the airway mucosa. TH2 cells orchestrate the asthmatic inflammation through the secretion of a series of cytokines, particularly interleukin 4 (IL-4), IL-13, IL-5, and IL-9. IL-4 is the major factor regulating IgE production by B cells, and is required for optimal TH2 differentiation. However, blocking IL-4 is not sufficient to inhibit the development of asthma in experimental models. In contrast, inhibition of IL-13, another TH2 cytokine whose signal transduction pathway overlaps with that of IL-4, completely blocks airway hyperreactivity in mouse asthma models. IL-5 is a key factor for eosinophilia and could therefore be responsible for some of the tissue damage seen in chronic asthma. IL-9 has pleiotropic activities on allergic mediators such as mast cells, eosinophils, B cells and epithelial cells, and might be a good target for therapeutic interventions. Finally, chemokines, which can be produced by many cell types from inflamed lungs, play a major role in recruiting the mediators of asthmatic inflammation. Genetic studies have demonstrated that multiple genes are involved in asthma. Several genome wide screens point to chromosome 5q31–33 as a major susceptibility locus for asthma and high IgE values. This region includes a cluster of cytokine genes, and genes encoding IL-3, IL-4, IL-5, IL-9, IL-13, granulocyte macrophage colony stimulating factor, and the ß chain of IL-12. Interestingly, for some of these cytokines, a linkage was also established between asthma and their receptor. Another susceptibility locus has been mapped on chromosome 12 in a region that contains other potential candidate cytokine genes, including the gene encoding interferon γ, the prototypical TH1 cytokine with inhibitory activities for TH2 lymphocytes. Taken together, both experimental and genetic studies point to TH2 cytokines, such as IL-4, IL-13, IL-5, and IL-9, as important targets for therapeutic applications in patients with asthma.
Key Words: asthma • cytokines • interleukins • treatment of asthma • interferon γ
PMCID: PMC1731485  PMID: 11477111
20.  141 Abnormal Immune Response Against Respiratory Pathogens in Olympic Athletes 
Viruses and bacteria are important contributors to asthma exacerbations. Exercise at competitive level is believed to increase susceptibility to respiratory infections. The study aimed at investigation of the anti-infectious immune response in athletes in the context of exercise intensity, atopy and allergic diseases.
Questionnaire data were obtained from 219 Polish athletes (median age 26 years) preparing for Beijing Olympic Games during the multicenter study within the GA2LEN project (WP 2.8.2). Allergy Questionnaire for Athletes (AQUA) (Bonini et al 2009) was used to obtain data about symptoms and exercise pattern. Athletes were evaluated by allergist. Control group consisted of 77 healthy never-smokers (median age 29 years) not performing sport at competitive level. Serum IgG against parainfluenza virus 1,2 and 3 (PIV), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), adenovirus and Mycoplasma pneumoniae were determined by ELISA.
Percentage of athletes with positive serological testing was lower than percentage of HC in case of PIV (P < 0.0003), RSV (P = 0.01) and M. pneumoniae (P = 0.01). Analysis of IgG only in subjects with positive testing showed lower anti-PIV IgG levels in non-atopic athletes compared to HC (P < 0.001) and atopic athletes (P < 0.01) (median 66.0 vs 104.8 and 88.1 U/mL). In contrast, higher adenovirus IgG titres were found in atopic and non-atopic athletes as compared to HC (52.3 and 48.5 vs 36.6 EIU, P < 0.001). Positive anti-PIV serology test was most frequent in athletes with allergic rhinitis compared to asthmatic and healthy athletes (78.3 vs 50.0 and 46.8%; P = 0.002). For PIV and M. pneumoniae the difference was also seen when atopic and non-atopic athletes were compared separately with HC. Positive RSV serology was more frequent in atopic versus non-atopic athletes (76.3 vs 60.8%, P = 0.03) and in HC versus non-atopic athletes (84.4 vs 60.8%, P = 0.001) but no significant difference between atopic athletes and HC was seen. Positive RSV serology was associated with atopy (OR 2.89; 95% CI, 1.34-6.23; P = 0.007). No differences were observed with regard to exercise pattern (endurance vs non-endurance).
Competitive sport at Olympic level may be associated with altered immune response against respiratory pathogens. For some agents this response may be affected by the atopic status.
PMCID: PMC3513113
21.  Eosinophil and neutrophil extracellular DNA traps in human allergic asthmatic airways 
Asthma is a heterogeneous inflammatory airway disorder which involves eosinophilic and non-eosinophilic phenotypes. Unlike in normal lungs, eosinophils are often present in atopic asthmatic airways although a subpopulation of asthmatic subjects predominantly develops neutrophilic inflammation. Recently, it has been demonstrated that eosinophils and neutrophils generate bactericidal extracellular traps consisting of DNA and cytotoxic granule proteins.
To explore if living eosinophils and neutrophils infiltrating human atopic asthmatic airways actively form extracellular DNA traps in vivo.
Quantitative analysis of eosinophils-releasing DNA was performed in endobronchial biopsies from 20 mild human atopic asthmatics at baseline and after local allergen challenge, and 10 normal subjects. DNA was stained with propidium iodine and major basic protein (MBP) with specific antibody. Differential cell counts and cytokines/chemokines were assessed in bronchoalveolar fluids.
Asthmatic airways were infiltrated with a significantly higher number of eosinophils than normal airways (39.3±4.6 vs. 0.4±0.9, p<0.0001). All asthmatics but only one control subject expressed eosinophils releasing DNA that colocalized with MBP (33.65±20.33 vs. 0.3±0.9 per hpf, p<0.0001). Four asthmatics mostly expressed neutrophilic inflammation and neutrophil DNA traps. Allergen challenge had no significant quantitative effect on eosinophil or neutrophil DNA traps. Airway eosinophils or DNA traps did not correlate with either BAL levels of IL-5, IFN-γ, or eotaxin, or the provoking doses of methacholine or allergen in asthmatics.
Extracellular DNA traps are generated by eosinophils and neutrophils in human atopic asthmatic airways in vivo. The mechanism and role of this new finding will necessitate further investigation.
Clinical implications
Eosinophil extracellular traps (EETs) (1) are frequently seen in atopic asthma, (2) consist of DNA and granule proteins, and (3) might be a new useful biomarker reflecting eosinophil activation.
PMCID: PMC3085562  PMID: 21315435
Atopic asthma; BAL fluid; biomarker; eosinophils; extracellular DNA traps; human; neutrophils
22.  DNA Methylation Profiles of Airway Epithelial Cells and PBMCs from Healthy, Atopic and Asthmatic Children 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e44213.
Allergic inflammation is commonly observed in a number of conditions that are associated with atopy including asthma, eczema and rhinitis. However, the genetic, environmental or epigenetic factors involved in these conditions are likely to be different. Epigenetic modifications, such as DNA methylation, can be influenced by the environment and result in changes to gene expression.
To characterize the DNA methylation pattern of airway epithelial cells (AECs) compared to peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and to discern differences in methylation within each cell type amongst healthy, atopic and asthmatic subjects.
PBMCs and AECs from bronchial brushings were obtained from children undergoing elective surgery for non-respiratory conditions. The children were categorized as atopic, atopic asthmatic, non-atopic asthmatic or healthy controls. Extracted DNA was bisulfite treated and 1505 CpG loci across 807 genes were analyzed using the Illumina GoldenGate Methylation Cancer Panel I. Gene expression for a subset of genes was performed using RT-PCR.
We demonstrate a signature set of CpG sites that are differentially methylated in AECs as compared to PBMCs regardless of disease phenotype. Of these, 13 CpG sites were specific to healthy controls, 8 sites were only found in atopics, and 6 CpGs were unique to asthmatics. We found no differences in the methylation status of PBMCs between disease phenotypes. In AECs derived from asthmatics compared to atopics, 8 differentially methylated sites were identified including CpGs in STAT5A and CRIP1. We demonstrate STAT5A gene expression is decreased whereas CRIP1 gene expression is elevated in the AECs from asthmatic compared to both healthy and atopic subjects.
We characterized a cell specific DNA methylation signature for AECs compared to PBMCs regardless of asthmatic or atopic status. Our data highlight the importance of understanding DNA methylation in the epithelium when studying the epithelial contribution to asthma.
PMCID: PMC3435400  PMID: 22970180
23.  Changing survival, memory cell compartment, and T-helper balance of lymphocytes between severe and mild asthma 
BMC Immunology  2008;9:73.
Asthma is a complicated network of inflammatory reactions. It is classified into mild, moderate, and severe persistent asthma. The success of asthma therapy relies much on understanding the underlying mechanisms of inflammation at each stage of asthma severity. The aim of this study was to explore the differences in apoptotic potential, CD4/CD8 ratio, memory compartment, and T- helper (Th) 1 and 2 profile of peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL) in patients with mild intermittent asthma and severe persistent asthma during exacerbation periods.
Four research lines were investigated and compared among mild asthmatics, severe asthmatics, and healthy groups by applying immunocytochemical staining of PBL. Antiapoptotic and proapoptotic proteins with Bcl-2/Bax ratio, CD4, CD8 markers with CD4+/CD8+ ratio, CD45RO+, CD45RA+ markers with memory/naïve ratio (CD45RO+/CD45RA+). Th2/Th1 cytokines balance represented by IL-4/IFN-γ ratio was measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for in vitro PBL cytokine synthesis. It was found that Bcl-2/Bax ratio was higher in severe than in mild asthmatics which in turn was higher than in healthy group. And memory/naïve ratio of PBL was higher in severe than in mild asthmatics. Moreover, memory cells, CD45RO+ and CD45RO+/CD45RA+ ratio were correlated directly with Bcl-2/Bax, in severe and mild asthma patients. In contrast, CD4+/CD8+ ratio was not changed significantly among healthy group, mild and severe asthmatics. However, CD8+ cells were correlated directly with memory cells, CD45RO+, in severe asthmatics only. Interestingly, the dominant profile of cytokines appeared to change from T helper 2 (Th2) in mild asthmatics to T helper 1 (Th1) in severe asthmatics where the lowest in vitro IL-4/IFN-γ ratio and highest IFN-γ were found.
It was concluded that the underlying mechanisms of inflammation might vary greatly with asthma stage of severity. Mild intermittent asthma is mainly Th2 allergen-oriented reaction during exacerbations with good level of apoptosis making the inflammation as self-limiting, while in severe persistent asthma, the inflammatory reaction mediated mainly by Th1 cytokines with progressive loss of apoptosis leading to longer exacerbations, largely expanded memory cells, CD45RO+, leading to persistent baseline inflammation.
PMCID: PMC2631545  PMID: 19087256
24.  Impaired innate interferon induction in severe therapy resistant atopic asthmatic children 
Mucosal Immunology  2012;6(4):797-806.
Deficient type I interferon-β and type III interferon-λ induction by rhinoviruses has previously been reported in mild/moderate atopic asthmatic adults. No studies have yet investigated if this occurs in severe therapy resistant asthma (STRA). Here, we show that compared with non-allergic healthy control children, bronchial epithelial cells cultured ex vivo from severe therapy resistant atopic asthmatic children have profoundly impaired interferon-β and interferon-λ mRNA and protein in response to rhinovirus (RV) and polyIC stimulation. Severe treatment resistant asthmatics also exhibited increased virus load, which negatively correlated with interferon mRNA levels. Furthermore, uninfected cells from severe therapy resistant asthmatic children showed lower levels of Toll-like receptor-3 mRNA and reduced retinoic acid inducible gene and melanoma differentiation-associated gene 5 mRNA after RV stimulation. These data expand on the original work, suggesting that the innate anti-viral response to RVs is impaired in asthmatic tissues and demonstrate that this is a feature of STRA.
PMCID: PMC3684776  PMID: 23212197
25.  Decreased Fibronectin Production Significantly Contributes to Dysregulated Repair of Asthmatic Epithelium 
Rationale: Damage to airway epithelium is followed by deposition of extracellular matrix (ECM) and migration of adjacent epithelial cells. We have shown that epithelial cells from children with asthma fail to heal a wound in vitro.
Objectives: To determine whether dysregulated ECM production by the epithelium plays a role in aberrant repair in asthma.
Methods: Airway epithelial cells (AEC) from children with asthma (n = 36), healthy atopic control subjects (n = 23), and healthy nonatopic control subjects (n = 53) were investigated by microarray, gene expression and silencing, transcript regulation analysis, and ability to close mechanical wounds.
Measurements and Main Results: Time to repair a mechanical wound in vitro by AEC from healthy and atopic children was not significantly different and both were faster than AEC from children with asthma. Microarray analysis revealed differential expression of multiple gene sets associated with repair and remodeling in asthmatic AEC. Fibronectin (FN) was the only ECM component whose expression was significantly lower in asthmatic AEC. Expression differences were verified by quantitative polymerase chain reaction and ELISA, and reduced FN expression persisted in asthmatic cells over passage. Silencing of FN expression in nonasthmatic AEC inhibited wound repair, whereas addition of FN to asthmatic AEC restored reparative capacity. Asthmatic AEC failed to synthesize FN in response to wounding or cytokine/growth factor stimulation. Exposure to 5′, 2′deoxyazacytidine had no effect on FN expression and subsequent analysis of the FN promoter did not show evidence of DNA methylation.
Conclusions: These data show that the reduced capacity of asthmatic epithelial cells to secrete FN is an important contributor to the dysregulated AEC repair observed in these cells.
PMCID: PMC2862303  PMID: 20110557
fibronectin; asthma; epithelium; wound repair; inflammation

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