Background: Cysteinyl leukotriene 1 (CysLT1) receptor expression is known to be increased in the airway mucosa of patients with asthma, especially during exacerbations; however, nothing is known of its expression in COPD.
Methods: We applied immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization to endobronchial biopsies to determine inflammatory cell CysLT1 receptor protein and mRNA expression in the following: (1) 15 nonsmoker control subjects (NSC), (2) 16 smokers with moderate to severe COPD in its stable phase (S-COPD), and (3) 15 smokers with COPD hospitalized for a severe exacerbation (SE-COPD).
Results: The total number of bronchial mucosal inflammatory cells (CD45+) and those expressing CysLT1 receptor protein were significantly greater in SE-COPD (CysLT1 receptor protein: median [range] = 139 [31-634]) as compared with S-COPD (32 [6-114]) or NSC (16 [4-66]) (P < .001 for both). CysLT1 receptor gene expression showed similar differences. A greater proportion of CD451 cells expressed CysLT1 receptor protein in SE-COPD (median [range] = 22% [8-81]) compared with S-COPD (10% [4-32]) (P < .03) or NSC (7% [1-19]) (P < .002). In SE-COPD, the relative frequencies of CysLT1 receptor-expressing cells were as follows: tryptase1 mast cells > CD681 monocytes/macrophage > neutrophils > CD201 B lymphocytes = EG21 eosinophils. Moreover, there were positive correlations between the numbers of cells expressing CysLT1 receptor protein and the numbers of CD451 cells (r = 0.78; P < .003) and tryptase1 mast cells (r = 0.62; P < .02).
Conclusions: Bronchial mucosal CysLT1 receptor-positive inflammatory cells are present in the bronchial mucosa in COPD in greatest number in those experiencing a severe exacerbation.