BACKGROUND:Tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) is a major proinflammatory cytokine that is thought to be important in the pathogenesis of asthma. However, alterations in systemic regulation of this cytokine in asthma have not been examined in the context of corticosteroid therapy.
OBJECTIVES:To examine the ability of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from three different groups of patients with asthma requiring varying amounts of inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) for clinical control, and to examine cells from age- and sex-matched nonasthmatic patients to produce TNF-α.
DESIGN:All patients with asthma had a positive methacholine challenge test. 'High dose' ICS patients with asthma required ICS greater than or equal to 800 µg/day. 'Medium dose' patients with asthma were on less than or equal to 500 µg/day of ICS, whereas 'no ICS' patients with asthma had received no ICS for at least three months. Each patient with asthma was examined in parallel with an age- and sex-matched, nonasthmatic, nonatopic control subject. Cells were cultured (with or without the addition of potential stimulators phytohemagglutinin, lipopolysaccharide, formyl-methionine-leucine-phenylalanine or antihuman CD3), and TNF-αproduction was assessed by ELISA.
MAIN RESULTS:PBMC from both high dose ICS (n=8) and no ICS (n=11) patients with asthma produced more than twice the amount of TNF-αthan cells from matched nonasthmatic control patients (P<0.01) when cultured alone or in the presence of each stimulus (P<0.05). In contrast, there was no significant difference in TNF-αproduction between medium dose ICS patients with asthma and control patients. A group of asymptomatic atopic patients (n=6) did not have an increased level of TNF-αproduction.
CONCLUSIONS:Increases in TNF-αproduction within the PBMC compartment can be observed in both patients with asthma receiving high dose ICS and in a group of patients with mild asthma receiving no ICS therapy, but not in patients with asthma receiving a medium dose of ICS or atopic patients.