Lung Transplantation Has a Strong Impact on the Distribution and Phenotype of Monocyte Subsets

Transplant Proc. 2020 Apr;52(3):958-966. doi: 10.1016/j.transproceed.2020.01.012. Epub 2020 Mar 5.


Background: Lung transplantation (LTx) is a last treatment option for patients with an end-stage pulmonary disease. Chronic lung allograft dysfunction, which generally manifests as bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome (BOS), is a major long-term survival limitation. During injury, inflammation and BOS monocytes are recruited. We determined whether changes in count, subset distribution, and functionality by surface marker expression coincided with BOS development.

Methods: Fresh whole-blood samples were analyzed from 44 LTx patients, including 17 patients diagnosed with BOS, and compared with 10 age-matched healthy controls and 9 sarcoidosis patients as positive controls. Monocytes were quantified and analyzed using flow cytometry. Based on surface marker expression, classical, intermediate, and nonclassical subsets were determined, and functional phenotypes were investigated.

Results: The absolute count of monocytes was decreased in LTx and slightly increased in BOS patients. The relative count shifted toward classical monocytes at the expense of nonclassical monocytes in LTx and BOS. Surface marker expression was highest on intermediate monocytes. The expression of both CD36 and CD163 was significantly increased in the LTx and BOS cohort. The difference between the BOS cohort and the LTx cohort was only subtle, with a significant decrease in HLA-DR expression on nonclassical monocytes in BOS.

Conclusions: Monocyte subsets and surface marker expression changed significantly in transplantation patients, while BOS-specific changes were understated. More research is needed to determine whether and how monocytes influence the disease process and how current immunosuppressants affect their normal function in vivo.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bronchiolitis Obliterans / immunology*
  • Bronchiolitis Obliterans / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monocytes / immunology*
  • Phenotype