Lung macrophages drive mucus production and steroid-resistant inflammation in chronic bronchitis

Citations of this article
Mendeley users who have this article in their library.

This article is free to access.


Background: Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) frequently suffer from chronic bronchitis (CB) and display steroid-resistant inflammation with increased sputum neutrophils and macrophages. Recently, a causal link between mucus hyper-concentration and disease progression of CB has been suggested. Methods: In this study, we have evaluated the steroid sensitivity of purified, patient-derived sputum and alveolar macrophages and used a novel mechanistic cross-talk assay to examine how macrophages and bronchial epithelial cells cross-talk to regulate MUC5B production. Results: We demonstrate that sputum plug macrophages isolated from COPD patients with chronic bronchitis (COPD/CB) are chronically activated and only partially respond to ex vivo corticosteroid treatment compared to alveolar macrophages isolated from lung resections. Further, we show that pseudo-stratified bronchial epithelial cells grown in air–liquid-interface are inert to direct bacterial lipopolysaccharide stimulation and that macrophages are able to relay this signal and activate the CREB/AP-1 transcription factor complex and subsequent MUC5B expression in epithelial cells through a soluble mediator. Using recombinant protein and neutralizing antibodies, we identified a key role for TNFα in this cross-talk. Conclusions: For the first time, we describe ex vivo pharmacology in purified human sputum macrophages isolated from chronic bronchitis COPD patients and identify a possible basis for the steroid resistance frequently seen in this population. Our data pinpoint a critical role for chronically activated sputum macrophages in perpetuating TNFα-dependent signals driving mucus hyper-production. Targeting the chronically activated mucus plug macrophage phenotype and interfering with aberrant macrophage-epithelial cross-talk may provide a novel strategy to resolve chronic inflammatory lung disease.




Andelid, K., Öst, K., Andersson, A., Mohamed, E., Jevnikar, Z., Vanfleteren, L. E. G. W., & Göransson, M. (2021). Lung macrophages drive mucus production and steroid-resistant inflammation in chronic bronchitis. Respiratory Research, 22(1).

Register to see more suggestions

Mendeley helps you to discover research relevant for your work.

Already have an account?

Save time finding and organizing research with Mendeley

Sign up for free