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Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 1998 Jan;18(1):60-5.

Production of interleukin 13 by alveolar macrophages from normal and fibrotic lung.

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Department of Hospital Medicine, University of Bristol Medical School Unit, Southmead Hospital, Westbury on Trym, United Kingdom.


Human interleukin 13 (IL-13) is a cytokine that has a profound effect on primary immune cells by inducing immunoglobulin production, proliferation of B cells, and the differentiation of cells of the monocytic lineage. IL-13 can inhibit the production of inflammatory cytokines by both macrophages and monocytes. Previously, IL-13 expression has been reported only in cells of the T-cell lineage and the mast cell line HMC-1. We now report the presence of IL-13 mRNA and protein in human alveolar macrophages (AMs) analyzed by the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and enzyme-linked immunoabsorbent assay (ELISA), respectively, and IL-13 protein in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) of subjects with pulmonary fibrosis. We have investigated 13 patients from 49 to 75 yr of age with forms of pulmonary fibrosis, and eight healthy volunteers from 24 to 61 yr of age. Their AMs were obtained by bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) and purified by adherence. The proportion of BAL purified AMs expressing IL-13 mRNA was increased in those subjects with fibrotic lung disease, in comparison with those from control subjects (11 of 13 versus 2 of 8, P < 0.01). IL-13 protein was detectable in the BALF of 8 of 13 patients with pulmonary fibrosis, but in none of the control subjects. AMs of four subjects with systemic sclerosis were cultured and IL-13 protein was increased in the culture supernatants when compared to the control subjects, although this did not reach significance. These findings show that IL-13 mRNA is not only a product of T cells, but is also expressed in both normal AMs and those from subjects with pulmonary fibrosis, and that at least some of the IL-13 mRNA is translated into protein and secreted in subjects with pulmonary fibrosis. We hypothesize that IL-13 may be expressed by normal human AMs as part of the homeostatic control process but its production may be increased in the presence of inflammatory lung disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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