Background: Asthmatics who smoke have decreased pulmonary mature dendritic cells (DCs). Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients have an increased amount of pulmonary immature DCs. We hypothesized that healthy smokers and patients with COPD have decreased pulmonary mature DCs. Methods: We identified sputum DCs expressing the maturation markers CD83 and DC-lysosome associated membrane protein (DC-LAMP) and DC subpopulations (i.e. myeloid and plasmacytoid DCs) by flow cytometry in healthy smokers before they entered a smoking cessation trial (n = 30), in the same smokers after 6 months of smoking cessation (n = 11) and in COPD patients (n = 28, 14 current and 14 ex-smokers). 12 healthy never-smokers served as controls. DC numbers were expressed as percentage of total sputum CD45 + leukocytes. Results: CD83 + and DC-LAMP + mature DCs were decreased in healthy smokers before they ceased smoking compared to after (p = 0.003 and p = 0.049, respectively) and in smokers before smoking cessation compared to never-smokers (p = 0.027 and p = 0.028, respectively). COPD patients, both current and ex-smokers, showed decreased CD83 + mature DCs compared to never-smokers and smokers after cessation (p = 0.042 and p = 0.004, respectively). Conclusions: Cigarette smoking and COPD per se are associated with a decrease in pulmonary mature DCs. We speculate that this reduction is involved in the immunopathogenesis of smoking-related respiratory disorders, such as COPD. © 2009 S. Karger AG, Basel.
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