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Thorax. 2009 Aug;64(8):671-6. doi: 10.1136/thx.2008.108290. Epub 2009 Feb 12.

Granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor expression in induced sputum and bronchial mucosa in asthma and COPD.

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Institute for Lung Health, University of Leicester, Clinical Sciences Wing, Glenfield Hospital, Groby Road, Leicester, UK.



Granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) has been implicated as an important mediator in the pathogenesis of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, the expression of GM-CSF and its receptor in airway samples in asthma and COPD across disease severity needs to be further defined.


Sputum GM-CSF was measured in 18 control subjects, 45 subjects with asthma and 47 subjects with COPD. Enumeration of GM-CSF+ cells in the bronchial submucosa and airway smooth muscle bundle was performed in 29 control subjects, 36 subjects with asthma and 10 subjects with COPD.


The proportion of subjects with measurable GM-CSF in the sputum was raised in those with moderate (7/14) and severe (11/18) asthma, and in those with COPD GOLD (Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease) stage II (7/16), III (8/17) and IV (7/14) compared with controls (1/18) and those with mild asthma (0/13); p = 0.001. The sputum GM-CSF concentration was correlated with the sputum eosinophilia in subjects with moderate to severe asthma (r(s) = 0.41; p = 0.018). The median (interquartile range) GM-CSF+ and GM-CSFR+ cells/mm(2) of submucosa was increased in severe asthma (1.4 (3.0) and 2.1 (8.4)) compared with those with mild to moderate asthma (0 (2.5) and 1.1 (5)) and healthy controls (0 (0.5) and 0 (1.6)), (p = 0.004 and p = 0.02, respectively).


The findings support a potential role for GM-CSF in asthma and COPD and suggest that overexpression of GM-CSF in sputum and the bronchial mucosa is a particular feature of severe asthma.

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