Background: Hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP) is characterized by a lymphocytic alveolitis and loosely formed granulomas in lung biopsy specimens. HP improves or disappears altogether after cessation of antigen exposure. The Fas-Fas ligand (FasL) system is one of the representative systems of apoptosis-signaling receptor molecules, and is involved in various inflammatory diseases. We hypothesized that the Fas-FasL system may be associated with this disorder.
Methods: We examined the expression of FasL and Fas proteins in lung tissues from patients with HP using immunohistochemistry. We also measured the soluble form of FasL (sFasL) and sFas levels in serum and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) from patients with HP using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Furthermore, we also measured the cytotoxic activity of BALF sFasL in vitro.
Results: FasL was detected in infiltrating mononuclear cells, and Fas was detected in infiltrating mononuclear cells, alveolar macrophages, and epithelioid cells in HP, whereas FasL was not detected and Fas was detected in few alveolar macrophages in controls. The levels of sFasL and sFas in BALF, but not in serum, were significantly increased in HP compared with controls. BALF of HP that included high levels of sFasL had no cytotoxic activity for bronchiolar epithelial cells in vitro.
Conclusions: In HP, there is an upregulation of FasL and Fas in lung tissues. Since there is no incidence of apoptosis and no cytotoxic activity for lung epithelial cells in BALF from patients with HP, the increased levels of BALF sFasL and sFas may reflect the activation and sequestration of inflammatory cells rather than apoptosis.
Copyright 2000 S. Karger AG, Basel.