IL-17 protein levels in both induced sputum and plasma are increased in stable but not acute asthma individuals with obesity

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Background Obesity worsens asthma control partly through enhanced airway neutrophilia, altered lung mechanics and comorbidities, including obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, gastroesophageal reflux disease and depression. Although controversial, obesity may also cause poorer outcomes in acute asthma. IL-17 is associated with neutrophilic inflammation, steroid resistance and severe asthma, but its importance in the association between asthma and obesity is unknown. Objective To investigate the role of IL-17 in obese asthma in both acute and stable settings. Methods Both stable (n = 177) and acute (n = 78) asthmatics were recruited and categorized into lean (n = 77 and 39 respectively), overweight (n = 41 and 17 respectively) and obese (n = 59 and 22 respectively) groups and compared for clinical characteristics, including sputum and plasma IL-17 protein concentrations, sputum cellularity, spirometry and comorbidities. Correlations of IL-17 expression with other measures were explored. Results In stable subjects, airway neutrophilia and IL-17 concentrations were most prominent in the obese, and correlated positively with each other. Significant increase in plasma IL-17 levels was also noted and associated with elevated depressive symptoms in obesity. In acute asthma, IL-17 expression, like most other clinical measures, was similar among lean, overweight and obese groups, but was higher in acute versus stable asthma subjects, with sputum IL-17 correlating positively with sputum neutrophils and negatively with FEV1 and plasma IL-17 showing a positive connection to airway eosinophilia during exacerbation. Conclusions IL-17 contributes to worse disease control in obese asthma through enhancing airway neutrophilia and depression, and may implicate in asthma exacerbations. Effects of adiposity on acute asthma remain uncertain.




Chen, J. H., Qin, L., Shi, Y. Y., Feng, J. T., Zheng, Y. L., Wan, Y. F., … Hu, C. P. (2016). IL-17 protein levels in both induced sputum and plasma are increased in stable but not acute asthma individuals with obesity. Respiratory Medicine, 121, 48–58.

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