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Respir Med. 1997 Feb;91(2):67-76.

Peripheral blood lymphocyte cell subsets in subjects with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: association with smoking, IgE and lung function.

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Department of Pulmonology, University Hospital Groningen, The Netherlands.


In contrast to the numerous studies which show that lymphocytes play an important role in the pathogenesis of asthma, few studies have investigated the role of lymphocytes in the pathogenesis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The aim of the present study was to investigate lymphocyte subsets in peripheral venous blood of smoking and non-smoking COPD patients and healthy controls. The interaction of smoking and IgE has also been assessed, and it was investigated whether a lower level of FEV1 was associated with changes in lymphocyte subsets. In the present study, peripheral venous blood lymphocyte subsets were investigated in 42 smoking and non-smoking, non-atopic subjects with a clear diagnosis of COPD (43-74 years) who all used bronchodilator therapy only, and in 24 normal, healthy control subjects (40-72 years). No significant differences in lymphocyte subsets were found when either total groups or smoking subjects of both groups were compared. However, the percentage of CD8+ lymphocytes (suppressor/ cytotoxic T-cells) was significantly higher in the non-smoking COPD subjects compared with the non-smoking, healthy control subjects (P < 0.05). In addition, within the group of non-smoking COPD subjects, a higher CD4:CD8 ratio was associated with a higher FEV1 as a percentage of predicted (% pred.) (r = 0.55, P = 0.01) and a lower total serum IgE (r = -0.45, P = 0.04). Within the group of smoking COPD subjects, a higher FEV1 % pred. was associated with a higher percentage of CD19+ lymphocytes (B-cells) (r = 0.65, P < 0.01). The present study provides further evidence that the changes in the balance of T-cell subsets and IgE synthesis possibly plays a role in the pathogenesis of COPD.

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