Increases in HLA-DQ, DP, DR, and transferrin receptors on alveolar macrophages in sarcoidosis and allergic alveolitis compared with fibrosing alveolitis

Chest. 1990 Mar;97(3):651-61. doi: 10.1378/chest.97.3.651.


We have used flow cytometric methods to detect and quantify HLA-DR, DQ, and DP antigens and transferrin receptors on alveolar macrophages in lavage samples from 36 patients with granulomatous lung diseases (extrinsic allergic alveolitis [EAA], n = 13; sarcoidosis, n = 23), and 12 patients having fibrosing alveolitis (FA) (cryptogenic fibrosing alveolitis, n = 3; FA and scleroderma, n = 8; FA and primary biliary cirrhosis, n = 1). HLA-DR, DQ, and DP antigens were expressed on the majority of alveolar macrophages in all the patients, and the percentages of positive cells were similar to those in control subjects without lung disease. However, the amounts expressed were higher in those with EAA and sarcoidosis than in the FA group or control subjects, the most significant differences being in HLA-DQ and HLA-DP expression. Transferrin receptor expression was also higher in the granulomatous lung diseases. In sarcoidosis, higher levels of HLA-DQ correlated with lower lung function measurements (Dco p less than 0.025, FVC p less than 0.025, FEV1 p less than 0.005), suggesting this may be a marker of disease activity. HLA-DP levels also showed a trend (p less than 0.1) of inverse correlation with lung function. Levels of HLA-DQ (p less than 0.005) and HLA-DP (p less than 0.001) correlated more closely than HLA-DR with numbers of lymphocytes in the lavage fluids, and HLA-DQ levels correlated with increasing proportions of lymphocytes in proliferation (p less than 0.05). We suggest that high levels of HLA-DQ and DP on alveolar macrophages may be more relevant than HLA-DR to the enhanced antigen-presenting function of these cells in sarcoidosis, and possibly also in EAA.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alveolitis, Extrinsic Allergic / immunology*
  • Alveolitis, Extrinsic Allergic / pathology
  • Antigens, Surface / analysis
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / cytology
  • Female
  • HLA-D Antigens / analysis*
  • HLA-DP Antigens / analysis
  • HLA-DQ Antigens / analysis
  • HLA-DR Antigens / analysis
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases / immunology*
  • Lung Diseases / pathology
  • Macrophages / analysis
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / pathology*
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / immunology*
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / pathology
  • Receptors, Transferrin / analysis*
  • Sarcoidosis / immunology*
  • Sarcoidosis / pathology


  • Antigens, Surface
  • HLA-D Antigens
  • HLA-DP Antigens
  • HLA-DQ Antigens
  • HLA-DR Antigens
  • Receptors, Transferrin