Local and systemic cellular inflammation and cytokine release in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Cytokine. 2011 Nov;56(2):298-304. doi: 10.1016/j.cyto.2011.07.010. Epub 2011 Aug 30.


Background: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic airway inflammatory disease caused by repeated exposure to noxious gases or particles. It is now recognized that the disease also features systemic inflammation. The purpose of our study was to compare airway and systemic inflammation in COPD to that seen in healthy subjects and to relate the inflammation with the disease severity.

Methods: Ninety-five COPD patients, encompassing the whole severity spectrum of the disease, were recruited from our outpatient clinic and rehabilitation center and compared to 33 healthy subjects. Induced sputum and blood samples were obtained for measurement of inflammatory cell count. Interleukin (IL)-4, IL-6, IL-10, TNF-α and IFN-γ produced by 24h sputum and blood cell cultures were measured.

Results: Compared to healthy subjects, COPD exhibited a prominent airway neutrophilic inflammation associated with a marked IL-10, IL-6 and TNF-α release deficiency that contrasted with a raised IFN-γ production. Neutrophilic inflammation was also prominent at blood level together with raised production of IFN-γ, IL-10 and TNF-α. Furthermore, sputum neutrophilia correlated with disease severity assessed by GOLD stages. Likewise the extent of TNF-α release from blood cells also positively correlated with the disease severity but negatively with that of sputum cell culture. Blood release of TNF-α and IL-6 negatively correlated with body mass index. Altogether, our results showed a significant relationship between cellular marker in blood and sputum but poor relationship between local and systemic release of cytokines.

Conclusions: COPD is characterized by prominent neutrophilic inflammation and raised IFN-γ production at both bronchial and systemic level. Overproduction of TNF-α at systemic level correlates with disease severity and inversely with body mass index.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / metabolism*


  • Cytokines