Background: Some idiopathic interstitial pneumonias (IIPs) are characterised by fibroproliferation and deposition of extracellular matrix. Because efficacious treatment options are limited, research has been directed towards understanding the cytokine networks that may affect fibroblast activation and, hence, the progression of certain IIPs.
Aims: To examine the expression of interleukin 4 (IL-4), IL-13, and their corresponding receptor subunits in the various forms of IIP and normal patient groups.
Methods: Molecular and immunohistochemical analysis of IL-4, interferon γ (IFNγ), IL-13, IL-4 receptor (IL-R), and IL-13 receptor subunits in surgical lung biopsies (SLBs) from 39 patients (21 usual interstitial pneumonia (UIP), six non-specific interstitial pneumonia (NSIP), eight respiratory bronchiolitic interstitial lung disease (RBILD), and five normal controls).
Results: Molecular analysis demonstrated that IL-13Rα2, IL-13Rα1, and IL-4Rα were present in a greater proportion of upper and lower lobe biopsies from patients with UIP than patients with NSIP and RBILD. Immunohistochemical analysis of patients with UIP, NSIP, and RBILD revealed interstitial staining for all three receptor subunits, whereas such staining was only seen in mononuclear cells present in normal SLBs. Fibroblastic foci in patients with UIP strongly stained for IL-4Rα and IL-13Rα2. Localised expression of IL-4Rα was also seen in SLBs from patients with NSIP but not in other groups.
Conclusion: Some histological subtypes of IIP are associated with increased pulmonary expression of receptor subunits responsive to IL-4 and IL-13. These findings may be of particular importance in understanding the pathogenesis of IIP and, more importantly, may provide important novel therapeutic targets.