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Decreased percentage of CD4+Foxp3+TGF-β+ and increased percentage of CD4+IL-17+ cells in bronchoalveolar lavage of asthmatics

Adam Barczyk1, Wladyslaw Pierzchala1, Gaetano Caramori2, Ryszard Wiaderkiewicz3, Marcin Kaminski3, Peter J Barnes4 and Ian M Adcock4*

Author Affiliations

1 Katedra i Klinika Pneumonologii, Slaski Uniwersytet Medyczny w Katowicach, Katowice, Poland

2 Centro Interdipartimentale per lo Studio delle Malattie Infiammatorie delle Vie Aeree e Patologie Fumo-correlate (CEMICEF; formerly Centro di Ricerca su Asma e BPCO), Sezione di Malattie dell’Apparato Respiratorio, Università di Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy

3 Katedra i Zaklad Histologii i Embriologii, Slaski Uniwersytet Medyczny w Katowicach, Katowice, Poland

4 Airway Disease Section, National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London, Dovehouse Street, London SW3 6LY, UK

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Journal of Inflammation 2014, 11:22  doi:10.1186/1476-9255-11-22

Published: 9 August 2014



Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways with the proven role of Th2 cells in its pathogenesis. The role and characteristic of different subsets of CD4+ cells is much less known.


The aim of the study was to analyze the incidence of different subsets of CD4+ T cells, in particular different subsets of CD4+ cells with the co-expression of different cytokines.


Twenty five stable asthmatic and twelve age-matched control subjects were recruited to the study. Bronchoscopy and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) were performed in all study subjects. CD4+ T cells were isolated from BAL fluid by positive magnetic selection. After stimulation simultaneous expression of TGF-β, FoxP3, CD25, IFN-γ, IL-4, TNF-α (set 1); IL-10, FoxP3, CD25, IFN-γ, IL-4, MIP-1β (set 2); IL-17A, IL-8, IFN-γ, IL-4, MIP-1β (set 3) were measured by flow cytometry.


The percentage of CD4+ cells co-expressing Foxp3 and TGF-β (CD4+Foxp3+TGF-β+ cells) was significantly lower (P = 0.03), whereas the percentage of CD4+IL-17+ cells (P = 0.008), CD4+IL-17+ IFN-γ+ cells (P = 0.047) and CD4+IL-4+ cells (P = 0.01) were significantly increased in asthmatics compared with that seen in healthy subjects. A significantly higher percentage of CD4+Foxp3+ cells from asthma patients expressed IFN-γ (P = 0.01), IL-4 (P = 0.004) and CD25 (P = 0.04), whereas the percentage of CD4+IL-10+ cells expressing Foxp3 was significantly decreased in asthmatics (P = 0.03). FEV1% predicted correlated negatively with the percentage of CD4+IL-17+ cells (r = -0.33; P = 0.046) and positively with CD4+Foxp3+TGF-β+ cells (r = 0.43; P = 0.01).


Our results suggest that in the airways of chronic asthma patients there is an imbalance between increased numbers of CD4+IL-17+ cells and Th2 cells and decreased number of CD4+Foxp3+TGF-β+.

Asthma; BAL; CD4+IL-17+ cells; CD4+Foxp3+TGF-β+ cells