Background: TH2 cells can further differentiate into dual-positive TH2/TH17 cells. The presence of dual-positive TH2/TH17 cells in the airways and their effect on asthma severity are unknown.
Objective: We sought to study dual-positive TH2/TH17 cells in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid from asthmatic patients, examine their response to glucocorticoids, and define their relevance for disease severity.
Methods: Bronchoscopy and lavage were performed in 52 asthmatic patients and 25 disease control subjects. TH2 and TH2/TH17 cells were analyzed by using multicolor flow cytometry and confocal immunofluorescence microscopy. Cytokines were assayed by means of ELISA.
Results: Dual-positive TH2/TH17 cells were present at a higher frequency in BAL fluid from asthmatic patients compared with numbers seen in disease control subjects. High-level IL-4 production was typically accompanied by high-level IL-17 production and coexpression of GATA3 and retinoic acid receptor-related orphan receptor γt. Increased presence of TH2/TH17 cells was associated with increased IL-17 production in lavage fluid. TH2/TH17 cell counts and IL-17 production correlated with PC20 for methacholine, eosinophil counts, and FEV1. TH2/TH17 cells, unlike TH2 cells, were resistant to dexamethasone-induced cell death. They expressed higher levels of mitogen-activated protein-extracellular signal-regulated kinase kinase 1, a molecule that induces glucocorticoid resistance. On the basis of the dominance of BAL fluid TH2 or TH2/TH17 cells, we identified 3 subgroups of asthma: TH2(predominant), TH2/TH17(predominant), and TH2/TH17(low). The TH2/TH17(predominant) subgroup manifested the most severe form of asthma, whereas the TH2/TH17(low) subgroup had the mildest asthma.
Conclusion: Asthma is associated with a higher frequency of dual-positive TH2/TH17 cells in BAL fluid. The TH2/TH17(predominant) subgroup of asthmatic patients manifested glucocorticoid resistance in vitro. They also had the greatest airway obstruction and hyperreactivity compared with the TH2(predominant) and TH2/TH17(low) subgroups.
Keywords: Dual-positive T(H)2/T(H)17 cells; MEK; asthma; bronchoalveolar lavage; glucocorticoid resistance.
Copyright © 2014 American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.