The chronic lung diseases, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), are common affecting over 500 million people worldwide and causing substantial morbidity and mortality. Asthma is typically associated with Th2-mediated eosinophilic airway inflammation, in contrast to neutrophilic inflammation observed commonly in COPD. However, there is increasing evidence that the eosinophil might play an important role in 10–40% of patients with COPD. Consistently in both asthma and COPD a sputum eosinophilia is associated with a good response to corticosteroid therapy and tailored strategies aimed to normalize sputum eosinophils reduce exacerbation frequency and severity. Advances in our understanding of the multistep paradigm of eosinophil recruitment to the airway, and the consequence of eosinophilic inflammation, has led to the development of new therapies to target these molecular pathways. In this article we discuss the mechanisms of eosinophilic trafficking, the tools to assess eosinophilic airway inflammation in asthma and COPD during stable disease and exacerbations and review current and novel anti-eosinophilic treatments.
ACOS; anti-CRTh2; anti-IL5; anti-IL-13; anti-IL4R; asthma; biomarker; COPD; corticosteroid; eosinophil
The analysis of high-resolution computed tomography (CT) images of the lung is dependent on inter-subject differences in airway geometry. The application of computational models in understanding the significance of these differences has previously been shown to be a useful tool in biomedical research. Studies using image-based geometries alone are limited to the analysis of the central airways, down to generation 6–10, as other airways are not visible on high-resolution CT. However, airways distal to this, often termed the small airways, are known to play a crucial role in common airway diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Other studies have incorporated an algorithmic approach to extrapolate CT segmented airways in order to obtain a complete conducting airway tree down to the level of the acinus. These models have typically been used for mechanistic studies, but also have the potential to be used in a patient-specific setting. In the current study, an image analysis and modelling pipeline was developed and applied to a number of healthy (n = 11) and asthmatic (n = 24) CT patient scans to produce complete patient-based airway models to the acinar level (mean terminal generation 15.8 ± 0.47). The resulting models are analysed in terms of morphometric properties and seen to be consistent with previous work. A number of global clinical lung function measures are compared to resistance predictions in the models to assess their suitability for use in a patient-specific setting. We show a significant difference (p < 0.01) in airways resistance at all tested flow rates in complete airway trees built using CT data from severe asthmatics (GINA 3–5) versus healthy subjects. Further, model predictions of airways resistance at all flow rates are shown to correlate with patient forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) (Spearman ρ = −0.65, p < 0.001) and, at low flow rates (0.00017 L/s), FEV1 over forced vital capacity (FEV1/FVC) (ρ = −0.58, p < 0.001). We conclude that the pipeline and anatomical models can be used directly in mechanistic modelling studies and can form the basis for future patient-based modelling studies.
The D prostanoid receptor 2 (DP2; also known as chemoattractant receptor–homologous molecule expressed on TH2 cells) is implicated in the pathogenesis of asthma, but its expression within bronchial biopsy specimens is unknown.
We sought to investigate the bronchial submucosal DP2 expression in asthmatic patients and healthy control subjects and to explore its functional role in epithelial cells.
DP2 protein expression was assessed in bronchial biopsy specimens from asthmatic patients (n = 22) and healthy control subjects (n = 10) by using immunohistochemistry and in primary epithelial cells by using flow cytometry, immunofluorescence, and quantitative RT-PCR. The effects of the selective DP2 agonist 13, 14-dihydro-15-keto prostaglandin D2 on epithelial cell migration and differentiation were determined.
Numbers of submucosal DP2+ cells were increased in asthmatic patients compared with those in healthy control subjects (mean [SEM]: 78  vs 22 /mm2 submucosa, P < .001). The bronchial epithelium expressed DP2, but its expression was decreased in asthmatic patients compared with that seen in healthy control subjects (mean [SEM]: 21  vs 72 /10 mm2 epithelial area, P = .001), with similar differences observed in vitro by primary epithelial cells. Squamous metaplasia of the bronchial epithelium was increased in asthmatic patients and related to decreased DP2 expression (rs = 0.69, P < .001). 13, 14-Dihydro-15-keto prostaglandin D2 promoted epithelial cell migration and at air-liquid interface cultures increased the number of MUC5AC+ and involucrin-positive cells, which were blocked with the DP2-selective antagonist AZD6430.
DP2 is expressed by the bronchial epithelium, and its activation drives epithelial differentiation, suggesting that in addition to its well-characterized role in inflammatory cell migration, DP2 might contribute to airway remodeling in asthmatic patients.
Expression; asthma; immunohistochemistry; prostaglandin D2; biopsy; ALI, Air-liquid interface; COPD, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; CRTH2, Chemoattractant receptor–homologous molecule expressed on TH2 cells; DK-PGD2, 13, 14-Dihydro-15-keto prostaglandin D2; DP1, D prostanoid receptor 1; DP2, D prostanoid receptor 2; PGD2, Prostaglandin D2
In response to infections and irritants, the respiratory epithelium releases the alarmin interleukin (IL)-33 to elicit a rapid immune response. However, little is known about the regulation of IL-33 following its release. Here we report that the biological activity of IL-33 at its receptor ST2 is rapidly terminated in the extracellular environment by the formation of two disulphide bridges, resulting in an extensive conformational change that disrupts the ST2 binding site. Both reduced (active) and disulphide bonded (inactive) forms of IL-33 can be detected in lung lavage samples from mice challenged with Alternaria extract and in sputum from patients with moderate–severe asthma. We propose that this mechanism for the rapid inactivation of secreted IL-33 constitutes a ‘molecular clock' that limits the range and duration of ST2-dependent immunological responses to airway stimuli. Other IL-1 family members are also susceptible to cysteine oxidation changes that could regulate their activity and systemic exposure through a similar mechanism.
IL-33, released by epithelial cells in response to stress, is a potent activator of inflammation. Here Cohen et al. show that secreted IL-33 is rapidly inactivated by disulfide bond formation that prevents binding to its receptor, and that IL-33-related cytokines are susceptible to similar oxidation.
The importance of IL-13 in the asthma paradigm is supported by increased expression in human subjects, particularly in patients with mild-to-moderate asthma. However, the role of IL-13 in severe asthma needs to be further defined.
We sought to assess IL-13 expression in sputum and bronchial biopsy specimens from subjects with mild-to-severe asthma.
Sputum IL-13 concentrations were measured in 32 control subjects, 34 subjects with mild asthma, 21 subjects with moderate asthma, and 26 subjects with severe asthma. Enumeration of mast cells, eosinophils, and IL-13+ cells in the bronchial submucosa and airway smooth muscle (ASM) bundle was performed in 7 control subjects, 14 subjects with mild asthma, 7 subjects with moderate asthma, and 7 subjects with severe asthma.
The proportion of subjects with measurable IL-13 in the sputum was increased in the mild asthma group (15/34) and severe asthma group (10/26) compared with that seen in the control group (4/32; P = .004). IL-13+ cells were increased within the submucosa in all asthma severity groups compared with control subjects (P = .006). The number of IL-13+ cells were increased within the ASM bundle in the severe asthma group compared with that seen in the other groups (P < .05). Asthma control questionnaire scores positively correlated with sputum IL-13 concentrations (Rs = 0.35, P = .04) and mast cells in the ASM bundle (Rs = 0.7, P = .007). IL-13+ cells within the submucosa and ASM correlated with sputum eosinophilia (Rs = 0.4, P ≤ .05).
IL-13 overexpression in sputum and bronchial biopsy specimens is a feature of severe asthma.
Severe asthma; IL-13; sputum; bronchus; airway smooth muscle; eosinophilia
Potentially pathogenic microorganisms can be detected by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) in sputum from patients with COPD, although how this technique relates to culture and clinical measures of disease is unclear. We used cross-sectional and longitudinal data to test the hypotheses that qPCR is a more sensitive measure of bacterial presence and is associated with neutrophilic airway inflammation and adverse clinical outcomes.
Sputum was collected from 174 stable COPD subjects longitudinally over 12 months. Microbial sampling using culture and qPCR was performed. Spirometry and sputum measures of airway inflammation were assessed.
Sputum was qPCR-positive (>106 copies/mL) in 77/152 samples (Haemophilus influenzae [n=52], Moraxella catarrhalis [n=24], Streptococcus pneumoniae [n=19], and Staphylococcus aureus [n=7]). Sputum was culture-positive in 50/174 samples, with 49 out of 50 culture-positive samples having pathogen-specific qPCR bacterial loads >106 copies/mL. Samples that had qPCR copy numbers >106/mL, whether culture-positive or not, had increased sputum neutrophil counts. H. influenzae qPCR copy numbers correlated with sputum neutrophil counts (r=0.37, P<0.001), were repeatable within subjects, and were >106/mL three or more times in 19 patients, eight of whom were repeatedly sputum culture-positive. Persistence, whether defined by culture, qPCR, or both, was associated with a higher sputum neutrophil count, lower forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1), and worsened quality of life.
qPCR identifies a significant number of patients with potentially bacteria-associated neutrophilic airway inflammation and disease that are not identified by traditional culture-based methods.
H. influenzae; qPCR; sputum
Nutritional depletion is an important manifestation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which has been related to systemic inflammation. It remains unclear to what degree airway inflammation contributes to the presence or progression of nutritional depletion.
To determine whether airway inflammation and lung bacterial colonization are related to nutritional status or predict progressive weight loss and muscle atrophy in patients with COPD.
Body composition using dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, indices of airway inflammation, and bacterial colonization were measured in 234 COPD patients. Systemic inflammation was assessed from serum C reactive protein (CRP) and circulating total and differential leukocyte counts. Nutritional depletion was defined as a body mass index (BMI) less than 21 kg/m2 and/or fat-free mass index (FFMI) less than 15 or 17 kg/m2 in women and men, respectively. FFMI was calculated as the fat-free mass (FFM) corrected for body surface area. Measurements were repeated in 94 patients after a median 16-month follow-up. Regression analysis was used to assess the relationships of weight change and FFM change with indices of bacterial colonization and airway and systemic inflammation.
Nutritional depletion occurred in 37% of patients. Lung function was worsened in patients with nutritional depletion compared to those without (forced expiratory volume in 1 second 1.17 L versus 1.41 L, mean difference 0.24, 95% confidence interval 0.10 to 0.38, P<0.01). There were no differences in airway inflammation and bacterial colonization in patients with and without nutritional depletion. At baseline, BMI correlated positively with serum CRP (rs=0.14, P=0.04). Change in weight and change in FFM over time could not be predicted from baseline patient characteristics.
Nutritional depletion and progressive muscle atrophy are not related to airway inflammation or bacterial colonization. Overspill of pulmonary inflammation is not a key driver of muscle atrophy in COPD.
muscle atrophy; fat-free mass; dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA); airway inflammation; bacteria
Relationships between airway inflammation and respiratory potentially pathogenic microorganisms (PPMs) quantified using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) in subjects with COPD are unclear. Our aim was to evaluate mediators of airway inflammation and their association with PPMs in subjects with COPD at stable state and during exacerbations.
Sputum from 120 stable subjects with COPD was analyzed for bacteriology (colony-forming units; total 16S; and qPCR targeting Haemophilus influenzae, Moraxella catarrhalis, and Streptococcus pneumoniae), differential cell counts, and inflammatory mediators using the Meso-Scale Discovery Platform. Subjects were classified as colonized if any PPM was identified above the threshold of detection by qPCR. Symptoms were quantified using the visual analog scale.
At stable state, 60% of subjects were qPCR positive for H influenzae, 48% for M catarrhalis, and 28% for S pneumoniae. Elevated sputum concentrations of IL-1β, IL-10, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α were detected in samples qPCR positive for either H influenzae or M catarrhalis. Bacterial loads of H influenzae positively correlated with IL-1β, IL-8, IL-10, TNF-α, and symptoms; and M catarrhalis correlated with IL-10 and TNF-α. H influenzae qPCR bacterial load was an independent predictor of sputum TNF-α and IL-1β. In 55 subjects with paired exacerbation data, qPCR bacterial load fold change at exacerbation in M catarrhalis but not H influenzae correlated to changes in sputum TNF-α and IL-1β concentrations.
At stable state, H influenzae is associated with increased airway inflammation in COPD. The relationship between bacterial load changes of specific pathogens and airway inflammation at exacerbation and recovery warrants further investigation.
Antibiotic overuse in respiratory illness is common and is associated with drug resistance and hospital-acquired infection. Biomarkers that can identify bacterial infections may reduce antibiotic prescription. We aimed to compare the usefulness of the biomarkers procalcitonin and C-reactive protein (CRP) in patients with pneumonia or exacerbations of asthma or COPD.
Patients with a diagnosis of community-acquired pneumonia or exacerbation of asthma or COPD were recruited during the winter months of 2006 to 2008. Demographics, clinical data, and blood samples were collected. Procalcitonin and CRP concentrations were measured from available sera.
Sixty-two patients with pneumonia, 96 with asthma, and 161 with COPD were studied. Serum procalcitonin and CRP concentrations were strongly correlated (Spearman rank correlation coefficient [rs] = 0.56, P < .001). Patients with pneumonia had increased procalcitonin and CRP levels (median [interquartile range] 1.27 ng/mL [2.36], 191 mg/L ) compared with those with asthma (0.03 ng/mL [0.04], 9 mg/L ) and COPD (0.05 ng/mL [0.06], 16 mg/L ). The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (95% CI) for distinguishing between patients with pneumonia (antibiotics required) and exacerbations of asthma (antibiotics not required), for procalcitonin and CRP was 0.93 (0.88-0.98) and 0.96 (0.93-1.00). A CRP value > 48 mg/L had a sensitivity of 91% (95% CI, 80%-97%) and specificity of 93% (95% CI, 86%-98%) for identifying patients with pneumonia.
Procalcitonin and CRP levels can both independently distinguish pneumonia from exacerbations of asthma. CRP levels could be used to guide antibiotic therapy and reduce antibiotic overuse in hospitalized patients with acute respiratory illness.
Severe asthma is a heterogeneous condition. Airway remodelling is a feature of severe asthma and can be determined by the assessment of high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT) scans. The aim of this study was to assess whether airway remodelling is restricted to specific subphenotypes of severe asthma.
A retrospective analysis was performed of HRCT scans from subjects who had attended a single-centre severe asthma clinic between 2003 and 2008. The right upper lobe apical segmental bronchus (RB1) dimensions were measured and the clinical and sputum inflammatory characteristics associated with RB1 geometry were assessed by univariate and multivariate regression analyses. Longitudinal sputum data were available and were described as area under the time curve (AUC). Comparisons were made in RB1 geometry across subjects in four subphenotypes determined by cluster analysis, smokers and non-smokers, and subjects with and without persistent airflow obstruction.
Ninety-nine subjects with severe asthma and 16 healthy controls were recruited. In the subjects with severe asthma the RB1 percentage wall area (%WA) was increased (p=0.009) and lumen area (LA)/body surface area (BSA) was decreased (p=0.008) compared with controls but was not different across the four subphenotypes. Airway geometry was not different between smokers and non-smokers and RB1 %WA was increased in those with persistent airflow obstruction. RB1 %WA in severe asthma was best associated with airflow limitation and persistent neutrophilic airway inflammation (model R2=0.27, p=0.001).
Airway remodelling of proximal airways occurs in severe asthma and is associated with impaired lung function and neutrophilic airway inflammation.
Severe asthma; airway remodelling; computed tomography; airway inflammation; quantitative analysis; asthma phenotypes; cluster analysis; imaging/CT MRI etc
Asthma and COPD are characterized by airway dysfunction and inflammation. Neutrophilic airway inflammation is a common feature of COPD and is recognized in asthma, particularly in severe disease. The T helper (Th) 17 cytokines IL-17A and IL-17F have been implicated in the development of neutrophilic airway inflammation, but their expression in asthma and COPD is uncertain.
We assessed IL-17A and IL-17F expression in the bronchial submucosa from 30 subjects with asthma, 10 ex-smokers with mild to moderate COPD, and 27 nonsmoking and 14 smoking control subjects. Sputum IL-17 concentration was measured in 165 subjects with asthma and 27 with COPD.
The median (interquartile range) IL-17A cells/mm2 submucosa was increased in mild to moderate asthma (2.1 [2.4]) compared with healthy control subjects (0.4 [2.8]) but not in severe asthma (P = .04). In COPD, IL-17A+ cells/mm2 submucosa were increased (0.5 [3.7]) compared with nonsmoking control subjects (0 ) but not compared with smoking control subjects (P = .046). IL-17F+ cells/mm2 submucosa were increased in severe asthma (2.7 [3.6]) and mild to moderate asthma (1.6 [1.0]) compared with healthy controls subjects (0.7 [1.4]) (P = .001) but was not increased in subjects with COPD. IL-17A and IL-17F were not associated with increased neutrophilic inflammation, but IL-17F was correlated with the submucosal eosinophil count (rs = 0.5, P = .005). The sputum IL-17 concentration in COPD was increased compared with asthma (2 [0-7] pg/mL vs 0 [0-2] pg/mL, P < .0001) and was correlated with post-bronchodilator FEV1% predicted (r = −0.5, P = .008) and FEV1/FVC (r = −0.4, P = .04).
Our findings support a potential role for the Th17 cytokines IL-17A and IL-17F in asthma and COPD, but do not demonstrate a relationship with neutrophilic inflammation.
Lung clearance index (LCI) is a measure of abnormal ventilation distribution derived from the multiple breath inert gas washout (MBW) technique. We aimed to determine the clinical utility of LCI in non-CF bronchiectasis, and to assess two novel MBW parameters that distinguish between increases in LCI due to specific ventilation inequality (LCIvent) and increased respiratory dead space (LCIds).
Forty-three patients with non-CF bronchiectasis and 18 healthy control subjects underwent MBW using the sulphur hexafluoride wash-in technique, and data from 40 adults with CF were re-analysed. LCIvent and LCIds were calculated using a theoretical two-compartment lung model, and represent the proportional increase in LCI above its ideal value due to specific ventilation inequality and increased respiratory dead space, respectively.
LCI was significantly raised in patients with non-CF bronchiectasis compared to healthy controls (9.99 versus 7.28, p < 0.01), and discriminated well between these two groups (area under receiver operating curve = 0.90, versus 0.83 for forced expiratory volume in one second [% predicted]). LCI, LCIvent and LCIds were repeatable (intraclass correlation coefficient > 0.75), and correlated significantly with measures of spirometric airflow obstruction.
LCI is repeatable, discriminatory, and is associated with spirometric airflow obstruction in patients with non-CF bronchiectasis. LCIvent and LCIds are a practical and repeatable alternative to phase III slope analysis and may allow a further level of mechanistic information to be extracted from the MBW test in patients with severe ventilation heterogeneity.
Bronchiectasis; Lung clearance index; Ventilation heterogeneity
Heterogeneity in asthma expression is multidimensional, including variability in clinical, physiologic, and pathologic parameters. Classification requires consideration of these disparate domains in a unified model.
To explore the application of a multivariate mathematical technique, k-means cluster analysis, for identifying distinct phenotypic groups.
We performed k-means cluster analysis in three independent asthma populations. Clusters of a population managed in primary care (n = 184) with predominantly mild to moderate disease, were compared with a refractory asthma population managed in secondary care (n = 187). We then compared differences in asthma outcomes (exacerbation frequency and change in corticosteroid dose at 12 mo) between clusters in a third population of 68 subjects with predominantly refractory asthma, clustered at entry into a randomized trial comparing a strategy of minimizing eosinophilic inflammation (inflammation-guided strategy) with standard care.
Measurements and Main Results
Two clusters (early-onset atopic and obese, noneosinophilic) were common to both asthma populations. Two clusters characterized by marked discordance between symptom expression and eosinophilic airway inflammation (early-onset symptom predominant and late-onset inflammation predominant) were specific to refractory asthma. Inflammation-guided management was superior for both discordant subgroups leading to a reduction in exacerbation frequency in the inflammation-predominant cluster (3.53 [SD, 1.18] vs. 0.38 [SD, 0.13] exacerbation/patient/yr, P = 0.002) and a dose reduction of inhaled corticosteroid in the symptom-predominant cluster (mean difference, 1,829 μg beclomethasone equivalent/d [95% confidence interval, 307–3,349 μg]; P = 0.02).
Cluster analysis offers a novel multidimensional approach for identifying asthma phenotypes that exhibit differences in clinical response to treatment algorithms.
taxonomy; corticosteroid response; multivariate classification
Exacerbations of asthma are associated with substantial morbidity and mortality and with considerable use of health care resources. Preventing exacerbations remains an important goal of therapy. There is evidence that eosinophilic inflammation of the airway is associated with the risk of exacerbations.
We conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of 61 subjects who had refractory eosinophilic asthma and a history of recurrent severe exacerbations. Subjects received infusions of either mepolizumab, an anti-interleukin-5 monoclonal antibody (29 subjects), or placebo (32) at monthly intervals for 1 year. The primary outcome measure was the number of severe exacerbations per subject during the 50-week treatment phase. Secondary outcomes included a change in asthma symptoms, scores on the Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire (AQLQ, in which scores range from 1 to 7, with lower values indicating more severe impairment and a change of 0.5 unit considered to be clinically important), forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) after use of a bronchodilator, airway hyperresponsiveness, and eosinophil counts in the blood and sputum.
Mepolizumab was associated with significantly fewer severe exacerbations than placebo over the course of 50 weeks (2.0 vs. 3.4 mean exacerbations per subject; relative risk, 0.57; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.32 to 0.92; P = 0.02) and with a significant improvement in the score on the AQLQ (mean increase from baseline, 0.55 vs. 0.19; mean difference between groups, 0.35; 95% CI, 0.08 to 0.62; P = 0.02). Mepolizumab significantly lowered eosinophil counts in the blood (P<0.001) and sputum (P = 0.002). There were no significant differences between the groups with respect to symptoms, FEV1 after bronchodilator use, or airway hyperresponsiveness. The only serious adverse events reported were hospitalizations for acute severe asthma.
Mepolizumab therapy reduces exacerbations and improves AQLQ scores in patients with refractory eosinophilic asthma. The results of our study suggest that eosinophils have a role as important effector cells in the pathogenesis of severe exacerbations of asthma in this patient population. (Current Controlled Trials number, ISRCTN75169762.)
Airway smooth muscle (ASM) hyperplasia is a hallmark of asthma that is associated with disease severity and persistent airflow obstruction.
We sought to investigate whether fibrocytes, a population of peripheral blood mesenchymal progenitors, are recruited to the ASM compartment in asthma.
We assessed the number of fibrocytes in bronchial biopsy specimens and peripheral blood from subjects with mild-to-severe refractory asthma versus healthy control subjects. In vitro we investigated potential mechanisms controlling fibrocyte migration toward the ASM bundle.
Fifty-one subjects with asthma and 33 control subjects were studied. In bronchial biopsy specimens, the number of fibrocytes was increased in the lamina propria of subjects with severe refractory asthma (median [interquartile range] number, 1.9/mm2 [1.7/mm2]) versus healthy control subjects (median [interquartile range] number, 0/mm2 [0.3/mm2], P < .0001) and in the ASM bundle of subjects with asthma of all severities (subjects with severe asthma, median [interquartile range] number, 3.8/mm2 [9.4/mm2]; subjects with mild-to-moderate asthma, median [interquartile range] number, 1.1/mm2 [2.4/mm2]); healthy control subjects, (median [interquartile range] number, 0/mm2 [0/mm2]); P = .0004). In the peripheral blood the fibrocyte number was also increased in subjects with severe refractory asthma (median [interquartile range] number, 1.4 × 104/mL [2.6 × 104/mL]) versus healthy control subjects (median [interquartile range] number, 0.4 × 104/mL [1.0 × 104/mL], P = .002). We identified that in vitro ASM promotes fibrocyte chemotaxis and chemokinesis (distance of migration after 4.5 hours, 31 μm [2.9 μm] vs 17 μm [2.4 μm], P = .0001), which was in part mediated by platelet-derived growth factor (mean inhibition by neutralizing antibody, 16% [95% CI, 2% to 32%], P = .03) but not by activation of chemokine receptors.
This study provides the first evidence that fibrocytes are present in the ASM compartment in asthma and that ASM can augment fibrocyte migration. The importance of fibrocytes in the development of ASM hyperplasia and airway dysfunction in asthma remains to be determined.
Asthma; airway smooth muscle; remodeling; mast cells
CXCL8 is a neutrophil and mast cell chemoattractant that is involved in regulating inflammatory cell influx in asthma. Here, we investigated the transcriptional mechanism involved in CXCL8 induction by TNF-α in cultured human airway smooth muscle (HASM) cells and compared these in cells from nonasthmatic and asthmatic individuals. Transfection studies with mutated CXCL8 promoter constructs identified NF-κB, activating protein-1, and CAAT/enhancer binding protein (C/EBP)β as key transcription factors, and binding of these three transcription factors to the CXCL8 promoter after TNF-α stimulation was confirmed by chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis. Cells derived from asthmatic individuals produced significantly higher levels of CXCL8 than nonasthmatic cells both basally and following 24 h of stimulation with TNF-α (p < 0.001). Furthermore, chromatin immunoprecipitation studies detected increased binding of NF-κB p65 and RNA polymerase II to the CXCL8 promoter of asthmatic HASM cells both in the presence and absence of TNF-α stimulation. This was not due to either an increased activation or phosphorylation of NF-κB per se or to an increase in its translocation to the nucleus. Increased binding of C/EBPβ to the CXCL8 promoter of unstimulated cells was also detected in the asthmatic HASM cells. Collectively these studies show that HASM cells from asthmatic individuals have increased CXCL8 production due to the presence of a transcription complex on the CXCL8 promoter, which contains NF-κB, C/EBPβ, and RNA polymerase II. This is the first description of an abnormality in transcription factor binding altering chemokine expression in airway structural cells in asthma.
Noneosinophilic asthma is common across asthma severities. However, in patients with moderate-to-severe disease, the absence of sputum eosinophilia cannot distinguish between asthmatic subjects with eosinophilic inflammation controlled by corticosteroids versus those in whom eosinophilic inflammation is not a component of the disease.
We sought to develop a method to quantify eosinophil proteins in airway macrophages as a novel biomarker of eosinophilic airway inflammation.
Eosinophil proteins in airway macrophages were assessed by means of flow cytometry, immunofluorescence, and cytoplasmic hue change after ingestion of apoptotic eosinophils. Airway macrophage median percentage of red-hued area in stained sputum cytospin preparations was assessed by means of image analysis from (1) subjects with mild-to-severe asthma, subjects with nonasthmatic eosinophilic bronchitis, and healthy control subjects; (2) subjects with eosinophilic severe asthma after treatment with prednisolone; and (3) subject with noneosinophilic asthma before corticosteroid withdrawal.
Eosinophil proteins were detected in airway macrophages, and cytoplasmic red hue increased after ingestion of apoptotic eosinophils. Airway macrophage percentage red-hued area was increased in subjects with moderate-to-severe asthma compared with that seen in subjects with mild asthma and healthy control subjects, was similar in those with or without a sputum eosinophilia, and was increased after corticosteroid therapy. In asthmatic subjects without sputum eosinophilia, the airway macrophage percentage red-hued area was increased in subjects who did versus those who did not have sputum eosinophilia after corticosteroid withdrawal.
Eosinophil proteins can be reliably measured in airway macrophages. In combination with sputum eosinophilia, the macrophage eosinophil protein content might further define the asthma phenotype and provide an additional tool to direct therapy.
Asthma; macrophage; eosinophil; computer-assisted image analysis; induced sputum
The microlocalization of mast cells within specific tissue compartments is thought to be critical for the pathophysiology of many diverse diseases. This is particularly evident in asthma where they localize to the airway smooth muscle (ASM) bundles. Mast cells are recruited to the ASM by numerous chemoattractants and adhere through CADM1, but the functional consequences of this are unknown. In this study, we show that human ASM maintains human lung mast cell (HLMC) survival in vitro and induces rapid HLMC proliferation. This required cell-cell contact and occurred through a cooperative interaction between membrane-bound stem cell factor (SCF) expressed on ASM, soluble IL-6, and CADM1 expressed on HLMC. There was a physical interaction in HLMC between CADM1 and the SCF receptor (CD117), suggesting that CADM1-dependent adhesion facilitates the interaction of membrane-bound SCF with its receptor. HLMC-ASM coculture also enhanced constitutive HLMC degranulation, revealing a novel smooth muscle-driven allergen-independent mechanism of chronic mast cell activation. Targeting these interactions in asthma might offer a new strategy for the treatment of this common disease.
The Th2 cytokine interleukin-13 (IL-13) has been implicated in the pathogenesis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We sought to examine IL-13 expression in COPD subjects in induced sputum and bronchus specimens. We hypothesized that inflammatory cells expressing IL-13 localize to the airway smooth muscle bundle and bronchial glands.
Interleukin-13 was measured in sputum samples from subjects with COPD (n = 34) across a range of severity (Global initiative for chronic Obstructive Lung Disease 2–4) and controls (n = 14) using ELISA. IL-13+ cells and inflammatory cells were enumerated within surgically resected proximal airway using immunohistochemical techniques from subjects with COPD (n = 10), smoking (n = 10) and nonsmoking controls (n = 8).
Sputum IL-13 was measurable in only 6/34 subjects with COPD and was not found in the smoking or nonsmoking control subjects. In subjects with COPD and controls there was a paucity of IL-13+ cells. The distribution of inflammatory cells within different airway compartments was similar in COPD and controls except for an increase in CD3+ lymphocytes within bronchial glands in COPD (P = 0.04).
Our findings do not support a role for IL-13 in COPD. However, the tissue localization of inflammatory cells to airway compartments, particularly the increase of T cells in glands in COPD may be important in disease.
airway smooth muscle; bronchus; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; interleukin-13; sputum
Asthma heterogeneity is multidimensional and requires additional tools to unravel its complexity. Computed tomography (CT)–assessed proximal airway remodeling and air trapping in asthmatic patients might provide new insights into underlying disease mechanisms.
The aim of this study was to explore novel, quantitative, CT-determined asthma phenotypes.
Sixty-five asthmatic patients and 30 healthy subjects underwent detailed clinical, physiologic characterization and quantitative CT analysis. Factor and cluster analysis techniques were used to determine 3 novel, quantitative, CT-based asthma phenotypes.
Patients with severe and mild-to-moderate asthma demonstrated smaller mean right upper lobe apical segmental bronchus (RB1) lumen volume (LV) in comparison with healthy control subjects (272.3 mm3 [SD, 112.6 mm3], 259.0 mm3 [SD, 53.3 mm3], 366.4 mm3 [SD, 195.3 mm3], respectively; P = .007) but no difference in RB1 wall volume (WV). Air trapping measured based on mean lung density expiratory/inspiratory ratio was greater in patients with severe and mild-to-moderate asthma compared with that seen in healthy control subjects (0.861 [SD, 0.05)], 0.866 [SD, 0.07], and 0.830 [SD, 0.06], respectively; P = .04). The fractal dimension of the segmented airway tree was less in asthmatic patients compared with that seen in control subjects (P = .007). Three novel, quantitative, CT-based asthma clusters were identified, all of which demonstrated air trapping. Cluster 1 demonstrates increased RB1 WV and RB1 LV but decreased RB1 percentage WV. On the contrary, cluster 3 subjects have the smallest RB1 WV and LV values but the highest RB1 percentage WV values. There is a lack of proximal airway remodeling in cluster 2 subjects.
Quantitative CT analysis provides a new perspective in asthma phenotyping, which might prove useful in patient selection for novel therapies.
Asthma; airway remodeling; distal airway; CT; quantitative imaging; phenotypes; cluster analysis; fractal analysis; ATS, American Thoracic Society; BSA, Body surface area; CT, Computed tomography; Dav, Averaged fractal dimension; De, Most efficient cover fractal dimension; Dsc, Slope-corrected fractal dimension; Dsce, Slope-corrected most-efficient covering fractal dimension; FRC, Functional residual capacity; HU, Hounsfield units; ICC, Intraclass correlation coefficient; LA, Lumen area; LV, Lumen volume; MLD E/I, Mean lung density expiratory/inspiratory ratio; Pi10, Hypothetical airway with internal perimeter of 10 mm; Po20, Hypothetical airways with outer airway perimeter of 20 mm; RB1, Right upper lobe apical segmental bronchus; ROI, Region of interest; RV, Residual volume; TLC, Total lung capacity; VI, Voxel index; VI−850 E-I, VI−850 change on paired inspiratory and expiratory CT scan; VI−850/−950 E-I, Voxel index change of percent voxels between −950 and −850 HU on paired inspiratory and expiratory CT scan; WA, Wall area; WV, Wall volume
Airway inflammation persists after smoking cessation in established chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), suggesting that other factors drive the airway inflammatory response.
We tested the hypothesis that high levels of bacterial colonization are associated with increased levels of neutrophilic airway inflammation in stable COPD by examining the cross-sectional relationship between these measurements and by conducting a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of the effect of levofloxacin in patients with stable COPD.
Patients were randomized to receive either levofloxacin 500 mg daily or placebo for 7 days and underwent sputum induction for a differential cell count and quantitative bacterial analysis at baseline and at days 7, 14, and 28.
Sputum percentage neutrophil count correlated with airway bacterial load at baseline (r=0.56; P=0.003). Levofloxacin reduced bacterial load compared with placebo by 4.9-fold (95% confidence interval, 1.4–25.7; P=0.02) at day 7 but had no effect at any point on any marker of neutrophilic airway inflammation. In patients with a baseline bacterial load of more than 106 cfu/mL, levofloxacin treatment was associated with a 26.5% (95% confidence interval, 1.8%–51.3%; P=0.04) greater reduction in the percentage neutrophil count compared with placebo at day 7. Change in percentage neutrophil count correlated significantly with baseline airway bacterial load and change in airway bacterial load.
In stable COPD, levofloxacin treatment causes a short-term reduction in bacterial load. This is associated with a reduction in neutrophilic airway inflammation in patients with high bacterial loads. Further studies are required to investigate whether this effect is clinically advantageous.
bacteria; antibiotics; sputum
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a common condition and a major cause of mortality. COPD is characterized by irreversible airflow obstruction. The physiological abnormalities observed in COPD are due to a combination of emphysema and obliteration of the small airways in association with airway inflammation. The predominant cells involved in this inflammatory response are CD8+ lymphocytes, neutrophils, and macrophages. Although eosinophilic airway inflammation is usually considered a feature of asthma, it has been demonstrated in large and small airway tissue samples and in 20%–40% of induced sputum samples from patients with stable COPD. This airway eosinophilia is increased in exacerbations. Thus, modifying eosinophilic inflammation may be a potential therapeutic target in COPD. Eosinophilic airway inflammation is resistant to inhaled corticosteroid therapy, but does respond to systemic corticosteroid therapy, and the degree of response is related to the intensity of the eosinophilic inflammation. In COPD, targeting treatment to normalize the sputum eosinophilia reduced the number of hospital admissions. Whether controlling eosinophilic inflammation in COPD patients with an airway eosinophilia will modify disease progression and possibly alter mortality is unknown, but warrants further investigation.
COPD; sputum eosinophilia; corticosteroids