Neutrophilic Asthma Is Associated With Smoking, High Numbers of IRF5+, and Low Numbers of IL10+ Macrophages

Nil Turan, T Anienke van der Veen, Christina Draijer, Fatemeh Fattahi, Nick H Ten Hacken, Wim Timens, Antoon J van Oosterhout, Maarten van den Berge, Barbro N Melgert*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Asthma is a heterogenous disease with different inflammatory subgroups that differ in disease severity. This disease variation is hampering treatment and development of new treatment strategies. Macrophages may contribute to asthma phenotypes by their ability to activate in different ways, i.e., T helper cell 1 (Th1)-associated, Th2-associated, or anti-inflammatory activation. It is currently unknown if these different types of activation correspond with specific inflammatory subgroups of asthma. We hypothesized that eosinophilic asthma would be characterized by having Th2-associated macrophages, whereas neutrophilic asthma would have Th1-associated macrophages and both having few anti-inflammatory macrophages. We quantified macrophage subsets in bronchial biopsies of asthma patients using interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5)/CD68 for Th1-associated macrophages, CD206/CD68 for Th2-associated macrophages and interleukin 10 (IL10)/CD68 for anti-inflammatory macrophages. Macrophage subset percentages were investigated in subgroups of asthma as defined by unsupervised clustering using neutrophil/eosinophil counts in sputum and tissue and forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1). Asthma patients clustered into four subgroups: mixed-eosinophilic/neutrophilic, paucigranulocytic, neutrophilic with normal FEV1, and neutrophilic with low FEV1, the latter group consisting mainly of smokers. No differences were found for CD206+ macrophages within asthma subgroups. In contrast, IRF5+ macrophages were significantly higher and IL10+ macrophages lower in neutrophilic asthmatics with low FEV1 as compared to those with neutrophilic asthma and normal FEV1 or mixed-eosinophilic asthma. This study shows that neutrophilic asthma with low FEV1 is associated with high numbers of IRF5+, and low numbers of IL10+ macrophages, which may be the result of combined effects of smoking and having asthma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)676930
JournalFrontiers in allergy
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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