Indexed on: 12 Dec '20Published on: 11 Dec '20Published in: Clinical & Experimental Allergy
Monocytes and macrophages are critical innate immune cells of the airways. Despite their differing functions, few clinical studies discriminate between them and little is known about their regulation in asthma. We aimed to distinguish and quantify macrophages, monocytes and monocyte subsets in induced sputum and blood, and examine their relationship with inflammatory and clinical features of asthma. Methods We applied flow cytometry to distinguish macrophages, monocytes and subsets in sputum and blood (n=53; 45 asthma, 8 non-asthma) and a second asthma sputum cohort (n=26). Monocyte subsets were identified by surface CD14/CD16 (CD14 CD16 classical, CD14 CD16 intermediate and CD14 CD16 non-classical monocytes). Surface CD206, a marker of monocyte tissue differentiation, was measured in sputum. Relationship to airway inflammatory phenotype (neutrophilic n=9, eosinophilic n=14, paucigranulocytic n=22) and asthma severity (severe n=12, non-severe n=33) was assessed. Flow cytometry- and microscope-quantified sputum differential cell proportions were significantly correlated. Sputum macrophage number was reduced (p=0.036), while classical monocyte proportion was increased in asthma vs non-asthma (p=0.032). Sputum classical monocyte number was significantly higher in neutrophilic vs paucigranulocytic asthma (p=0.013). CD206 monocyte proportion and number were increased in neutrophilic vs eosinophilic asthma (p<0.001, p=0.013). Increased sputum classical and CD206 monocyte numbers in neutrophilic asthma were confirmed in the second cohort. Blood monocytes did not vary with airway inflammatory phenotype, but blood classical monocyte proportion and number were increased in severe vs non-severe asthma (p=0.022, p=0.011). Flow cytometry allowed distinction of sputum macrophages, monocytes and subsets, revealing compartment-specific dysregulation of monocytes in asthma. We observed an increase in classical and CD206 monocytes in sputum in neutrophilic asthma, suggesting co-recruitment of monocytes and neutrophils to the airways in asthma. Our data suggest further investigation of how airway monocyte dysregulation impacts on asthma-related disease activity is merited. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.