Rationale: Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi) causes acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (AECOPD). IL-17A is central for neutrophilic inflammation and has been linked to COPD pathogenesis.
Objectives: We investigated whether IL-17A is elevated in NTHi-associated AECOPD and required for NTHi-exacerbated pulmonary neutrophilia induced by cigarette smoke.
Methods: Experimental studies with cigarette smoke and NTHi infection were pursued in gene-targeted mice and using antibody intervention. IL-17A was measured in sputum collected from patients with COPD at baseline, during, and after AECOPD.
Measurements and main results: Exacerbated airway neutrophilia in cigarette smoke-exposed mice infected with NTHi was associated with an induction of IL-17A. In agreement, elevated IL-17A was observed in sputum collected during NTHi-associated AECOPD, compared with samples collected before or after the event. NTHi-exacerbated neutrophilia and induction of neutrophil chemoattractants over the background of cigarette smoke, as observed in wild-type mice, was absent in Il17a(-/-) mice and in mice treated with a neutralizing anti-IL-17A antibody. Further studies revealed that IL-1 receptor (R)1 signaling was required for IL-17A-dependent neutrophilia. Moreover, deficiency or therapeutic neutralization of IL-17A did not increase bacterial burden or delay bacterial clearance.
Conclusions: IL-17A is induced during NTHi-associated AECOPD. Functionally, IL-1R1-dependent IL-17A is required for NTHi-exacerbated pulmonary neutrophilia induced by cigarette smoke. Targeting IL-17A in AECOPD may thus be beneficial to reduce neutrophil recruitment to the airways.
Keywords: COPD; Haemophilus influenzae; IL-17A; disease exacerbation; neutrophil.