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Thorax. 2003 Apr;58(4):348-51.

Nuclear localisation of p65 in sputum macrophages but not in sputum neutrophils during COPD exacerbations.

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  • 1Research Center on Asthma and COPD and Occupational Medicine, University of Ferrara, Italy. crm@unife.it



Exacerbations represent an important feature of the clinical manifestation and natural history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Nuclear localisation of p65 is a signal of nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) activation. A study was undertaken to evaluate whether NF-kappaB activation is modified in sputum cells during COPD exacerbations.


Total and nuclear p65 immunoreactivity was measured by immunocytochemistry in the sputum cells of 11 smokers with moderate COPD during an exacerbation and after 6-8 weeks of clinical stability.


Total sputum cell count was significantly increased during exacerbations from a median (IQR) of 880 (510-1865) to 1914.5 (1065-3205) x 10(3)/ml (p<0.05). The main inflammatory cells in the sputum were neutrophils (83.2 (75.4-92.3)%) and macrophages (14.7 (2.6-21.6)%) and their relative proportion did not change during exacerbations. Nuclear staining for p65 was absent in sputum neutrophils, both during exacerbations and in the stable phase. In contrast, the percentage of macrophages expressing nuclear p65 increased significantly during exacerbations from a median (IQR) of 16 (7-24)% to 41.4 (6-69)% (p<0.05).


NF-kappaB appears to be activated in sputum macrophages but not in sputum neutrophils during exacerbations of COPD

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