Background: The aim of the study was to investigate how the expression of adhesion molecules changes as neutrophils migrate from the circulation to the lung and if these changes differ between non-smoking subjects and smokers with and without COPD.
Methods: Non-smoking healthy subjects (n=22), smokers without (n=21) and with COPD (n=18) were included. Neutrophils from peripheral blood, sputum and bronchial biopsies were analysed for cell surface expression of adhesion molecules (CD11b, CD62L, CD162). Serum, sputum supernatant and BAL-fluid were analysed for soluble adhesion molecules (ICAM-1, -3, E-selectin, P-selectin, VCAM-1, PECAM-1).
Results: Expression of CD11b was increased on circulating neutrophils from smokers with COPD. It was also increased on sputum neutrophils in both smokers groups, but not in non-smokers, as compared to circulating neutrophils.Serum ICAM-1 was higher in the COPD group compared to the other two groups (p<0.05) and PECAM-1 was lower in smokers without COPD than in non-smoking controls and the COPD group (p<0.05). In BAL-fluid ICAM-1 was lower in the COPD group than in the other groups (p<0.05).
Conclusions: Thus, our data strongly support the involvement of a systemic component in COPD and demonstrate that in smokers neutrophils are activated to a greater extent at the point of transition from the circulation into the lungs than in non-smokers.