Differential expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines in intra-epithelial T cells between trachea and bronchi distinguishes severity of COPD.Cytokine. 2012 Dec; 60(3):843-8.C
Measuring T-cell production of intracellular cytokines by flow cytometry enables specific monitoring of airway inflammation and response to therapies in chronic lung diseases including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We have previously shown that T cells in the airways of ex- and current- smoker COPD patients and healthy smokers produce increased T-cell pro-inflammatory cytokines IFNγ and TNFα versus healthy controls. However, we could not differentiate between COPD groups and smokers due to a high degree of inter-patient variability. To address this limitation, we hypothesized that intraepithelial T cells obtained from brushings of trachea may serve as an ideal intra-patient control compared with cells obtained from left and right bronchi. Production of intracellular cytokines by intraepithelial T-cells obtained from trachea and right and left bronchi from 26 individuals with COPD (16 with GOLD I and 10 with GOLD II-III disease), 11 healthy controls and 8 smokers was measured by flow cytometry. There was a significant increase in intraepithelial T-cell IFNγ and TNFα in both right and left bronchi of GOLD II-III COPD patients compared to cells obtained from the trachea. There were no changes in T cell pro-inflammatory cytokines between the bronchi and trachea from control subjects, GOLD I COPD patients or healthy smokers. There was a significant negative correlation between increased intraepithelial IFNγ and TNFα in bronchial brushing T-cells compared with tracheal T-cells, and compared with FEV1. Monitoring intracellular intra-epithelial T-cell cytokine production in bronchial brushings using autologous tracheal brushings as controls provides improves the sensitivity of the technique. Therapeutic targeting of these pro-inflammatory cytokines and assessing the effects of drugs on immune reactivity has the potential to reduce lung inflammation caused by intra-epithelial T cells in COPD.