Inflammatory cells in the bronchial glands of smokers with chronic bronchitis

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1997 Nov;156(5):1633-9. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm.156.5.9701081.


To characterize the inflammatory process in the bronchial glands of smokers with chronic sputum production, we examined lobar bronchi from 18 subjects undergoing lung resection for localized pulmonary lesions, all with a history of cigarette smoking. Nine of the subjects had symptoms of chronic bronchitis and chronic airflow obstruction, and nine were asymptomatic, with normal lung function. The number of neutrophils, eosinophils, mast cells, macrophages, CD4+ and CD8+ T-lymphocytes, and the ratio of CD4+ to CD8+ cells were assessed in the bronchial glands, epithelium, and submucosa. Cells were identified through immunohistochemistry. Smokers with symptoms of chronic bronchitis had an increased number of neutrophils (p = 0.01) and macrophages (p = 0.03) and a decreased CD4+/CD8+ ratio (p = 0.01) in the bronchial glands as compared with asymptomatic smokers. Chronic bronchitic smokers also had an increased number of epithelial neutrophils (p = 0.04), whereas the numbers of macrophages and CD4+ and CD8+ T-lymphocytes in the epithelium and submucosa were similar in the two groups of smokers. No differences in numbers of eosinophils or mast cells were observed between bronchitic and asymptomatic smokers in any of the compartments examined. In conclusion, smokers with chronic sputum production have an increased infiltration of neutrophils and macrophages and an increased proportion of CD8+ T-lymphocytes in their bronchial glands, supporting the important role of bronchial-gland inflammation in the pathogenesis of chronic bronchitis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bronchi / pathology*
  • Bronchitis / etiology
  • Bronchitis / pathology*
  • Bronchitis / physiopathology
  • CD4-CD8 Ratio
  • Cell Count
  • Chronic Disease
  • Eosinophils / pathology
  • Epithelium / pathology
  • Exocrine Glands / pathology*
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Macrophages / pathology
  • Male
  • Mast Cells / pathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Mucous Membrane / pathology
  • Neutrophils / pathology
  • Smoking / pathology*
  • Vital Capacity