Cigarette smoking depletes cells spontaneously secreting Th(1) cytokines in the human airway

Cytokine. 2001 Apr 21;14(2):121-6. doi: 10.1006/cyto.2001.0860.


Cigarette smoking may modify the immune balance in the airway since it alters the course of diseases in which immune system has an important role. This study examined whether cigarette smoking could affect the distribution of cells secreting Th(1) or Th(2) cytokines in the human airway. We utilized cytokine ELISPOT assay to detect and quantitate the frequencies of cells spontaneously secreting cytokines in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF). BALF was collected from six non-smokers and four heavy cigarette smokers without clinical airway symptoms. Cytokine ELISPOT assay was performed to quantitate cells secreting interleukin (IL-)2, IL-4 and interferon (IFN-)gamma with or without phorbor 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA) stimulation. There were no cells spontaneously secreting IL-2 detected in all samples from smokers whereas most of non-smokers had detectable IL-2-secreting cells. The number of IFN-gamma-secreting cells was also extremely decreased in smokers. Mitogen-stimulated Th(1) cytokine-secreting cells were again significantly decreased in smokers' airways. The frequency of IL-2-secreting cells and CD4/CD8 ratio in BALF had a weak positive correlation. IL-4-secreting cells were not detected in any samples from both groups. These results show that cigarette smoking depletes Th(1) cytokine-secreting cells in the human airway. It may explain the susceptibility of smokers to certain airway disease conditions such as viral or mycobacterial infections and allergic diseases.

MeSH terms

  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / cytology*
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / immunology*
  • CD4-CD8 Ratio
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Interleukin-2 / immunology
  • Interleukin-2 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-4 / metabolism
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Macrophages / cytology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Tetradecanoylphorbol Acetate / pharmacology
  • Th1 Cells / cytology
  • Th1 Cells / drug effects
  • Th1 Cells / immunology*


  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-2
  • Interleukin-4
  • Interferon-gamma
  • Tetradecanoylphorbol Acetate