Granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, eosinophils and eosinophil cationic protein in subjects with and without mild, stable, atopic asthma
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Increasing evidence implicates the eosinophil as an important effector cell in asthma, but little is known regarding its regulation in vivo. Granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) has been shown to regulate eosinophil function in vitro. We investigated the in vivo role of eosinophils and GM-CSF in mild asthma. We compared the number and function of eosinophils and the presence of GM-CSF in blood, bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) and biopsy tissue obtained from eight mild, stable, atopic asthmatics and 10 nonasthmatics, five of whom were atopic and five nonatopic. Eosinophils were significantly increased in the blood, BAL and biopsy tissue from asthmatics. Activated eosinophils, assessed by immunostaining for the secreted form of eosinophil cationic protein (EG2), were also increased in asthmatic BAL cells and biopsy tissue. Significant increases in GM-CSF in BAL cells and biopsy tissue from asthmatics were also evident. Significant positive correlations existed between GM-CSF in BAL and EG2, and GM-CSF in biopsy tissue and BAL and biopsy eosinophils. Airway responsiveness was also significantly positively correlated with eosinophil number and activation, and with GM-CSF. These results demonstrate that there are increased numbers of activated eosinophils and GM-CSF is increased in patients with mild asthma. Furthermore, GM-CSF is correlated with eosinophil number and function in vivo and these indices are significantly correlated with airway function. These findings emphasize the importance of eosinophils, potentially regulated in vivo by GM-CSF, in contributing to the disordered airway function evident even in mild asthma.
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