Rationale: Dendritic cells (DCs) have not been well studied in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), yet their integral role in activating and differentiating T cells makes them potential participants in COPD pathogenesis.
Objectives: To determine the expression of maturation molecules by individual DC subsets in relationship to COPD stage and to expression of the acute activation marker CD69 by lung CD4(+) T cells.
Methods: We nonenzymatically released lung leukocytes from human surgical specimens (n = 42) and used flow cytometry to identify three DC subsets (mDC1, mDC2, and pDC) and to measure their expression of three costimulatory molecules (CD40, CD80 and CD86) and of CD83, the definitive marker of DC maturation. Spearman nonparametric correlation analysis was used to identify significant correlations between expression of DC maturation molecules and COPD severity.
Measurements and main results: Expression of CD40 by mDC1 and mDC2 and of CD86 by mDC2 was high regardless of GOLD stage, but CD80 and CD83 on these two DC subsets increased with disease progression. pDC also showed significant increases in expression of CD40 and CD80. Expression of all but one of the DC molecules that increased with COPD severity also correlated with CD69 expression on lung CD4(+) T cells from the same patients, with the exception of CD83 on mDC2.
Conclusions: This cross-sectional study implies that COPD progression is associated with significant increases in costimulatory molecule expression by multiple lung DC subsets. Interactions with lung DCs may contribute to the immunophenotype of CD4(+) T cells in advanced COPD. Clinical trial registered with www.clinicaltrials.gov (NCT00281229).