Background: Eosinophilia is a marker of corticosteroid responsiveness and risk of exacerbation in asthma; although it has been linked to submucosal matrix deposition, its relationship with other features of airway remodelling is less clear.
Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between airway eosinophilia and airway remodelling.
Methods: Bronchial biopsies from subjects (n = 20 in each group) with mild steroid-naïve asthma, with either low (0-0.45 mm(-2)) ) or high submucosal eosinophil (23.43-46.28 mm(-2) ) counts and healthy controls were assessed for in vivo epithelial damage (using epidermal growth factor receptor staining), mucin expression, airway smooth muscle (ASM) hypertrophy and inflammatory cells within ASM.
Results: The proportion of in vivo damaged epithelium was significantly greater (P = 0.02) in the high-eosinophil (27.37%) than the low-eosinophil (4.14%) group. Mucin expression and goblet cell numbers were similar in the two eosinophil groups; however, MUC-2 expression was increased (P = 0.002) in the high-eosinophil group compared with controls. The proportion of submucosa occupied by ASM was higher in both asthma groups (P = 0.021 and P = 0.046) compared with controls. In the ASM, eosinophil and T-lymphocyte numbers were higher (P < 0.05) in the high-eosinophil group than both the low-eosinophil group and the controls, whereas the numbers of mast cells were increased in the high-eosinophil group (P = 0.01) compared with controls.
Conclusion: Submucosal eosinophilia is a marker (and possibly a cause) of epithelial damage and is related to infiltration of ASM with eosinophils and T lymphocytes, but is unrelated to mucus metaplasia or smooth muscle hypertrophy.
Keywords: asthma; eosinophil; epithelium; goblet cell; inflammation; remodelling; smooth muscle.
© 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.