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      The effects of repeated Toll-like receptors 2 and 4 stimulation in COPD alveolar macrophages

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          COPD is a progressive inflammatory airway disease characterized by increased numbers of alveolar macrophages in the lungs. Bacterial colonization of the lungs is a common feature in COPD and can promote inflammation through continual and repeated Toll-like receptor (TLR) stimulation. We have studied the response of COPD alveolar macrophages to repetitive stimulation with TLR2 and TLR4 ligands. We investigated the effect of sequential stimulation with different ligands to determine whether this results in tolerance or amplification of the immune response.


          We stimulated alveolar macrophages from COPD patients (n=9) and smokers (n=8) with the TLR4 agonist lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or the TLR2 agonist Pam3CSK4 for 24 hours before restimulating again for 24 hours. Cytokine protein release and gene expression were investigated.


          Repetitive stimulation of COPD and smokers macrophages with LPS for both 24-hour periods caused a reduction in tumor necrosis factor α, CCL5, and IL-10 production compared to cells that were not exposed initially to LPS. IL-6 and CXCL8 production were not significantly altered following repetitive LPS stimulation. The same pattern was observed for repeated stimulation with Pam3CSK4. Using COPD macrophages, LPS followed by Pam3CSK4 stimulation increased the levels of all cytokines compared to media followed by Pam3CSK4.


          TLR tolerance in COPD alveolar macrophages occurs after repetitive stimulation with the same TLR ligand, but this only occurs for selected cytokines. CXCL8 production is not reduced after repetitive TLR stimulation with the same ligand; this may be an important mechanism for the increased CXCL8 levels that have been observed in COPD. We showed that TLR4 stimulation followed by TLR2 stimulation does not cause tolerance, but enhances cytokine production. This may be a relevant mechanism by which bacteria cause excessive inflammation in COPD patients.

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          Most cited references 24

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          Differences in interleukin-8 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha in induced sputum from patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or asthma.

          Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are characterized by chronic airway inflammation. Studies using bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) have shown an increased proportion of eosinophils in the BAL fluid from asthmatics compared with that from normal subjects, whereas studies of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have shown increased numbers of neutrophils. Induced sputum allows sampling of respiratory tract secretions from patients and control subjects, providing a noninvasive method of studying airway secretions and allowing characterization of cells and measurement of soluble markers. We investigated whether induced sputum was a useful method of studying airway fluid from patients with moderate to severe COPD and whether it could be used to compare inflammation in this condition with that in asthma. An initial reproducibility study was undertaken. Sputum was induced twice in 13 patients with severe COPD at a 14-d interval. Total and differential cell counts were carried out and were found to be reproducible over this period. Sputum was then induced in 14 patients with COPD, 23 patients with asthma, 12 healthy cigarette smokers, and 16 normal nonsmoking control subjects. We found a significant increase in neutrophils and increased concentrations of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF alpha) and interleukin-8 (IL-8) in the patients with COPD compared with the smoking and nonsmoking control subjects. Interleukin-8, but not TNF alpha, was significantly higher in the COPD group than in the asthmatic group. We conclude that the cytokines TNF alpha and IL-8 may be involved in the inflammation in COPD.
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            Defective macrophage phagocytosis of bacteria in COPD.

            Exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are an increasing cause of hospitalisations and are associated with accelerated progression of airflow obstruction. Approximately half of COPD exacerbations are associated with bacteria and many patients have lower airways colonisation. This suggests that bacterial infection in COPD could be due to reduced pathogen removal. This study investigated whether bacterial clearance by macrophages is defective in COPD. Phagocytosis of fluorescently labelled polystyrene beads and Haemophillus influenzae and Streptococcus pneumoniae by alveolar macrophages and monocyte-derived macrophages (MDM) was assessed by fluorimetry and flow cytometry. Receptor expression was measured by flow cytometry. Alveolar macrophages and MDM phagocytosed polystyrene beads similarly. There was no difference in phagocytosis of beads by MDM from COPD patients compared with cells from smokers and nonsmokers. MDM from COPD patients showed reduced phagocytic responses to S. pneumoniae and H. influenzae compared with nonsmokers and smokers. This was not associated with alterations in cell surface receptor expression of toll-like receptor (TLR)2, TLR4, macrophage receptor with collagenous structure, cluster of differentiation (CD)163, CD36 or mannose receptor. Budesonide, formoterol or azithromycin did not suppress phagocytosis suggesting that reduced responses in COPD MDM were not due to medications. COPD macrophage innate responses are suppressed and may lead to bacterial colonisation and increased exacerbation frequency.
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              Bacterial Adaptation during Chronic Respiratory Infections

              Chronic lung infections are associated with increased morbidity and mortality for individuals with underlying respiratory conditions such as cystic fibrosis (CF) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The process of chronic colonisation allows pathogens to adapt over time to cope with changing selection pressures, co-infecting species and antimicrobial therapies. These adaptations can occur due to environmental pressures in the lung such as inflammatory responses, hypoxia, nutrient deficiency, osmolarity, low pH and antibiotic therapies. Phenotypic adaptations in bacterial pathogens from acute to chronic infection include, but are not limited to, antibiotic resistance, exopolysaccharide production (mucoidy), loss in motility, formation of small colony variants, increased mutation rate, quorum sensing and altered production of virulence factors associated with chronic infection. The evolution of Pseudomonas aeruginosa during chronic lung infection has been widely studied. More recently, the adaptations that other chronically colonising respiratory pathogens, including Staphylococcus aureus, Burkholderia cepacia complex and Haemophilus influenzae undergo during chronic infection have also been investigated. This review aims to examine the adaptations utilised by different bacterial pathogens to aid in their evolution from acute to chronic pathogens of the immunocompromised lung including CF and COPD.

                Author and article information

                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                International Journal of COPD
                International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
                Dove Medical Press
                02 March 2018
                : 13
                : 771-780
                [1 ]Division of Infection, Immunity and Respiratory Medicine, School of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, Manchester Academic Health Science Centre, The University of Manchester, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester
                [2 ]Refractory Respiratory Inflammation DPU, GlaxoSmithKline Medicines Research Centre, Stevenage, UK
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Dave Singh, Division of Infection, Immunity and Respiratory Medicine, School of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, Manchester Academic Health Science Centre, The University of Manchester, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, The Langley Building, Southmoor Road, Wythenshawe, Manchester M23 9QZ, UK, Tel +44 161 946 4073, Email dsingh@

                These authors contributed equally to this work

                © 2018 Lea et al. This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited

                The full terms of this license are available at and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed.

                Original Research

                Respiratory medicine

                copd, alveolar macrophages, tolerance


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