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Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2003 Aug;285(2):L492-9.

Increased production of TGF-beta and apoptosis of T lymphocytes isolated from peripheral blood in COPD.

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Department of Thoracic Medicine, Royal Adelaide Hospital, Adelaide, South Australia 5001.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is associated with inflammation of airway epithelium, including an increase in the number of intraepithelial T cells. Increased apoptosis of these T cells has been reported in the airways in COPD, and although this process is critical for clearing excess activated T cells, excessive rates of apoptosis may result in unbalanced cellular homeostasis, defective clearance of apoptotic material by monocytes/macrophages, secondary necrosis, and prolongation of the inflammatory response. Lymphocytes are known to traffic between the airway and the peripheral circulation, thus we hypothesized that in COPD, circulating T cells may show an increased propensity to undergo apoptosis. We analyzed phytohemagglutinin (PHA)-stimulated peripheral blood T cells from COPD patients and controls for apoptosis using flow cytometry and staining with annexin V and 7-aminoactinomycin D. As several pathways are involved in induction of apoptosis of T cells, including transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta/TGF receptor (TGFR), TNF-alpha/TNFR1, and Fas/Fas ligand, these mediators were also investigated in peripheral blood samples from these subject groups. Significantly increased apoptosis of PHA-stimulated T cells was observed in COPD (annexin positive 75.0 +/- 14.7% SD vs. control 50.2 +/- 21.8% SD, P = 0.006), along with upregulation of TNF-alpha/TNFR1, Fas, and TGFR. Monocyte production of TGF-beta was also increased. In conclusion we have demonstrated the novel finding of increased apoptosis of stimulated T cells in COPD and have also shown that the increased T-cell death may be associated with upregulation of apoptotic pathways, TGF-beta, TNF-alpha, and Fas in the peripheral blood in COPD.

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