Serum Levels of Autoantibodies Against Extracellular Antigens and Neutrophil Granule Proteins Increase in Patients with COPD Compared to Non-COPD Smokers

Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2020 Jan 29;15:189-200. doi: 10.2147/COPD.S235903. eCollection 2020.


Background: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a highly prevalent disease leading to irreversible airflow limitation and is characterized by chronic pulmonary inflammation, obstructive bronchiolitis and emphysema. Etiologically, COPD is mediated by toxic gases and particles, eg, cigarette smoke, while the pathogenesis of the disease is largely unknown. Several lines of evidence indicate a link between COPD and autoimmunity but comprehensive studies are lacking.

Methods: By using a protein microarray assaying more than 19,000 human proteins we determined in this study the autoantibody profiles of COPD and non-COPD smokers. The discovery cohort included 5 COPD patients under acute exacerbation (AECOPD) and 5 age- and gender-matched non-COPD smokers. One putative candidate autoantibody, anti-lactoferrin IgG, was further investigated by using immunoblotting with a large validation cohort containing 124 healthy controls, 92 patients with AECOPD and 52 patients with stable COPD.

Results: We show that i) autoantigens targeted by autoantibodies with higher titers in COPD patients were enriched in extracellular regions, while those with lower titers in COPD patients were enriched in intracellular compartments. ii) levels of IgG autoantibodies against many neutrophil granule proteins were significantly higher in COPD patients than in non-COPD smokers. Furthermore, increased levels of anti-lactoferrin antibodies in COPD patients were confirmed in a cohort with a large number of samples.

Conclusion: The comprehensive autoantibody profiles from COPD patients established in this study demonstrated for the first time a shift in the cellular localization of antigens targeted by autoantibodies in COPD.

Keywords: autoantibody profile; autoimmunity; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; lactoferrin; neutrophil granule proteins.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Autoantibodies / blood*
  • Autoantigens / immunology*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Immunoglobulin M / blood
  • Lactoferrin / immunology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neutrophils / immunology*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / blood*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / diagnosis
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / immunology
  • Smokers*


  • Autoantibodies
  • Autoantigens
  • Biomarkers
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulin M
  • LTF protein, human
  • Lactoferrin