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
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
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.
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
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.
Asthma is characterized by both chronic inflammation and airway remodeling. Remodeling - the structural changes seen in asthmatic airways - is pivotal in the pathogenesis of the disease. Although significant advances have been made recently in understanding the different aspects of airway remodeling, the exact biology governing these changes remains poorly understood. There is broad agreement that, in asthma, increased airway smooth muscle mass, in part due to smooth muscle hyperplasia, is a very significant component of airway remodeling. However, significant debate persists on the origins of these airway smooth muscle cells. In this review article we will explore the natural history of airway remodeling in asthma and we will discuss the possible contribution of progenitors, stem cells and epithelial cells in mesenchymal cell changes, namely airway smooth muscle hyperplasia seen in the asthmatic airways.
Airway remodeling; Airway smooth muscle; Asthma; Fibrocytes; Mesenchymal stem cells
CXCL10 (IP10) is involved in mast cell migration to airway smooth muscle (ASM) bundles in asthma. We aimed to investigate the role of cytokine-induced MAPK activation in CXCL10 production by ASM cells from people with and without asthma. Confluent growth-arrested ASM cells were treated with inhibitors of the MAPKs ERK, p38, and JNK and transcription factor NF-κB, or vehicle, and stimulated with IL-1β, TNF-α, or IFN-γ, alone or combined (cytomix). CXCL10 mRNA and protein, JNK, NF-κB p65 phosphorylation, and Iκ-Bα protein degradation were assessed using real-time PCR, ELISA, and immunoblotting, respectively. Cytomix, IL-1β, and TNF-α induced CXCL10 mRNA expression more rapidly in asthmatic than nonasthmatic ASM cells. IL-1β and/or TNF-α combined with IFN-γ synergistically increased asthmatic ASM cell CXCL10 release. Inhibitor effects were similar in asthmatic and nonasthmatic cells, but cytomix-induced release was least affected, with only JNK and NF-κB inhibitors halving it. Notably, JNK phosphorylation was markedly less in asthmatic compared with nonasthmatic cells. However, in both, the JNK inhibitor SP600125 reduced JNK phosphorylation and CXCL10 mRNA levels but did not affect CXCL10 mRNA stability or Iκ-Bα degradation. Together, the JNK and NF-κB inhibitors completely inhibited their CXCL10 release. We concluded that, in asthmatic compared with nonasthmatic ASM cells, JNK activation was reduced and CXCL10 gene expression was more rapid following cytomix stimulation. However, in both, JNK activation did not regulate early events leading to NF-κB activation. Thus JNK and NF-κB provide independent therapeutic targets for limiting CXCL10 production and mast cell migration to the ASM in asthma.
IFN-inducible protein 10; mRNA levels and stability; NK-κB; p38; ERK
Severe asthma is a heterogeneous disease and the relationship between airway inflammation and airway remodelling is poorly understood. We sought to define sputum mediator profiles in severe asthmatics categorised by CT-determined airway geometry and sputum differential cell counts.
In a single centre cross-sectional observational study we recruited 59 subjects with severe asthma that underwent sputum induction and thoracic CT. Quantitative CT analysis of the apical segment of the right upper lobe (RB1) was performed. Forty-one mediators in sputum samples were measured of which 21 mediators that were assessable in >50% of samples were included in the analyses.
Independent of airway geometry, sputum MMP9 and IL-1β were elevated in those groups with a high sputum neutrophil count while sputum ICAM was elevated in those subjects with a low sputum neutrophil count. In contrast, sputum CCL11, IL-1α and fibrinogen were different in groups stratified by both sputum neutrophil count and airway geometry. Sputum CCL11 concentration was elevated in subjects with a low sputum neutrophil count and high luminal and total RB1 area, whereas sputum IL1α was increased in subjects with a high sputum neutrophil count and low total RB1 area. Sputum fibrinogen was elevated in those subjects with RB1 luminal narrowing and in those subjects with neutrophilic inflammation without luminal narrowing.
We have demonstrated that sputum mediator profiling reveals a number of associations with airway geometry. Whether these findings reflect important biological phenotypes that might inform stratified medicine approaches requires further investigation.
Asthma; Remodelling; RB1 bronchus
Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF), a key angiogenic molecule, is aberrantly expressed in several diseases including asthma where it contributes to bronchial vascular remodelling and chronic inflammation. Asthmatic human airway smooth muscle (HASM) cells hypersecrete VEGF but the mechanism is unclear. Here we defined the mechanism in HASM cells from non-asthmatic (NA) and asthmatic (A) patients. We found that asthmatic cells lacked a repression complex at the VEGF promoter which was present in non-asthmatic cells. Recruitment of G9A, trimethylation of histone H3 at lysine 9 (H3K9me3) and a resultant decrease in RNA polymerase II (RNA pol II) at the VEGF promoter was critical to repression of VEGF secretion in non-asthmatic cells. At the asthmatic promoter H3K9me3 was absent due to failed recruitment of G9a; RNA pol II binding, in association with TAF1, was increased, H3K4me3 was present and Sp1 binding was exaggerated and sustained. In contrast DNA methylation and histone acetylation were similar in A and NA cells. This is the first study to show that airway cells in asthma have altered epigenetic regulation of remodelling gene(s). Histone methylation at genes such as VEGF may be an important new therapeutic target.
Rationale: Exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and responses to treatment are heterogeneous.
Objectives: Investigate the usefulness of blood eosinophils to direct corticosteroid therapy during exacerbations.
Methods: Subjects with COPD exacerbations were entered into a randomized biomarker-directed double-blind corticosteroid versus standard therapy study. Subjects in the standard arm received prednisolone for 2 weeks, whereas in the biomarker-directed arm, prednisolone or matching placebo was given according to the blood eosinophil count biomarker. Both study groups received antibiotics. Blood eosinophils were measured in the biomarker-directed and standard therapy arms to define biomarker-positive and -negative exacerbations (blood eosinophil count > and ≤ 2%, respectively). The primary outcome was to determine noninferiority in health status using the chronic respiratory questionnaire (CRQ) and in the proportion of exacerbations associated with a treatment failure between subjects allocated to the biomarker-directed and standard therapy arms.
Measurements and Main Results: There were 86 and 80 exacerbations in the biomarker-directed and standard treatment groups, respectively. In the biomarker-directed group, 49% of the exacerbations were not treated with prednisolone. CRQ improvement after treatment in the standard and biomarker-directed therapy groups was similar (0.8 vs. 1.1; mean difference, 0.3; 95% confidence interval, 0.0–0.6; P = 0.05). There was a greater improvement in CRQ in biomarker-negative exacerbations given placebo compared with those given prednisolone (mean difference, 0.45; 95% confidence interval, 0.01–0.90; P = 0.04). In biomarker-negative exacerbations, treatment failures occurred in 15% given prednisolone and 2% of those given placebo (P = 0.04).
Conclusions: The peripheral blood eosinophil count is a promising biomarker to direct corticosteroid therapy during COPD exacerbations, but larger studies are required.
Clinical trial registered with www.controlled-trials.com (ISRCTN92422949).
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; exacerbations; prednisolone; infection; eosinophils
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
Severe asthma is associated with fixed airway obstruction attributable to inflammation, copious luminal mucus, and increased airway smooth muscle (ASM) mass. Paradoxically, studies demonstrated that the hypertrophic and hyperplastic ASM characteristic of severe asthma has reduced contractile capacity. We compared the G-protein–coupled receptor (GPCR)–induced Ca2+ mobilization and expression of GPCRs and signaling proteins related to procontractile signaling in ASM derived postmortem from subjects who died of nonrespiratory causes, with cells from subjects who died of asthma. Despite the increased or comparable expression of contraction-promoting GPCRs (bradykinin B2 or histamine H1 and protease-activated receptor 1, respectively) in asthmatic ASM cells relative to cells from healthy donors, asthmatic ASM cells exhibited reduced histamine-induced Ca2+ mobilization and comparable responses to bradykinin and thrombin, suggesting a postreceptor signaling defect. Accordingly, the expression of regulator of G-protein signaling–5 (RGS5), an inhibitor of ASM contraction, was increased in cultured, asthmatic ASM cells and in bronchial smooth muscle bundles of both human subjects with asthma and allergen-challenged mice, relative to those of healthy human subjects or naive mice. The overexpression of RGS5 impaired the release of Ca2+ to thrombin, histamine, and carbachol, and reduced the contraction of precision-cut lung slices to carbachol. These results suggest that increased RGS5 expression contributes to decreased myocyte shortening in severe and fatal asthma.
asthma; bronchial smooth muscle; signal transduction; G-protein–coupled receptors