Identification and quantification of basophils in the airways of asthmatics following segmental allergen challenge

Cytometry A. 2014 Jul;85(7):580-7. doi: 10.1002/cyto.a.22472. Epub 2014 Apr 14.


During asthma attacks, allergens activate sensitized basophils in the lung, thereby aggravating symptoms. Due to the paucity of basophils in bronchial lavage fluid and the lack of specific basophil detection and quantification methods, basophil-directed research in these samples was hampered in the past. This study aimed to establish and validate a flow cytometry-based basophil detection and quantification method for human basophils from bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) and blood as a prerequisite for a better understanding of their pathogenic contribution and subtyping of asthma phenotypes. BAL and blood leukocytes from seasonal asthmatics were analyzed by flow cytometry. Chipcytometry, a highly sensitive single-cell analysis method, was used to validate the staining panel for basophils. Cell differentials of May-Grünwald-Giemsa-stained cytospins were used to compare basophil percentages. BAL basophils are identifiable as CD123(+) HLA-DR(-) CD3(-) CD14(-) CD19(-) CD20(-) CD56(-) cells in flow cytometrical analysis. Their identity was validated by Chipcytometry. CD203c was highly expressed by BAL basophils, whereas it was expressed at variable levels on blood basophils. The two quantification methods correlated, although more basophils were detected by flow cytometry. Furthermore, the increase in basophil percentages in the lung correlated with the decrease in the basophil percentages in the blood after allergen challenge. We here validated a reliable basophil quantification method, which is independent of the cell's activation and degranulation state. The results obtained with this method indicate that basophils are directly recruited from the blood circulation to the airway lumen.

Keywords: asthma; basophil; blood leukocytes; bronchoalveolar lavage leukocytes; chipcytometry; differential cell count; flow cytometry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Allergens / administration & dosage
  • Allergens / immunology
  • Animals
  • Antigens, CD / analysis
  • Asthma / blood*
  • Asthma / immunology*
  • Basophils / cytology*
  • Blood Cell Count
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / cytology*
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry / methods*
  • Humans
  • Lung / cytology
  • Male
  • Pyroglyphidae / immunology
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Seasonal / immunology
  • Skin Tests


  • Allergens
  • Antigens, CD