Rationale: Recently, models of macrophage activation have been revised. Macrophages stimulated with Th2 cytokines have been classified as alternatively activated.
Objectives: This article examines the expression and regulation of CC chemokine ligand 18 (CCL18), a marker of alternative activation, by human alveolar macrophages (AMs).
Methods: AM were obtained from bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid of patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, sarcoidosis, or hypersensitivity pneumonitis (n = 69) and healthy volunteers (n = 22). Expression of CCL18 was determined by quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction, in situ hybridization, flow cytometry, and immunohistochemistry, respectively.
Measurements and main results: Spontaneous CCL18 production by BAL-derived cells was markedly increased in patients with pulmonary fibrosis and correlated negatively with pulmonary function test parameters. CCL18 gene expression and protein production were up-regulated in normal AMs after Th2 cytokine stimulation and/or coculture with human lung fibroblasts. Native collagen significantly up-regulated CCL18 expression in normal AMs activated with Th2 cytokines via a mechanism mediated by beta2-integrin/ scavenger receptor(s). Culture supernatants of AMs from patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis increased collagen production by normal lung fibroblasts partly mediated via CCL18.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that AMs from patients with pulmonary fibrosis disclose a phenotype of alternative activation and might be a part of a positive feedback loop with lung fibroblasts perpetuating fibrotic processes.