Study objective: To examine the differences in the inflammatory cell and cytokine profile between patients with chronic bronchitis (CB) with and without airway obstruction compared to control subjects.
Design: We used bronchial biopsy samples from the patients and control subjects and analyzed them for the presence of CD3 T cells, CD68, major basic protein (MBP), elastase, and tryptase, as well as expression of messenger RNA (mRNA) coding for interleukin (IL)-4, IL-5, interferon (IFN)-γ, IL-9, eotaxin, and IFN-γ–inducible protein (IP)-10. The techniques of immunocytochemistry and in situ hybridization were used. Results were expressed as the number of immunoreactive and mRNA-positive cells per field.
Results: Increased number of elastase, CD68, and MBP-positive cells (n = 9, p < 0.01) was demonstrated in both groups of patients with CB compared to control subjects. In patients with CB and obstruction, the number of elastase, CD68, and the number of CD3-positive cells was significantly increased compared to patients with CB without obstruction (n = 9, p < 0.01). IFN-γ mRNA expression was increased in both groups of patients with CB compared to control subjects (n = 9, p < 0.01). IL-9 mRNA was significantly increased only in patients with CB and obstruction (n = 9, p < 0.01). Co-localization studies demonstrated > 80% of all IL-9–positive cells to be CD3-positive T cells. IP-10 mRNA was significantly increased in both groups of patients with CB compared to control subjects (n = 9, p < 0.01).
Conclusions: These results indicate a differential expression of inflammatory markers and cytokine mRNA in patients with obstructive CB. Increased presence of T lymphocytes and up-regulation of IL-9 and IP-10 mRNA expression in the bronchial biopsy samples may contribute to the airway obstruction in these patients.