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CD8 positive T cells express IL-17 in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Ying Chang1, Jessica Nadigel1, Nicholas Boulais1, Jean Bourbeau2, François Maltais3, David H Eidelman1 and Qutayba Hamid1*

Author Affiliations

1 Meakins-Christie Laboratories and Respiratory Division, Department of Medicine McGill University, 3626 rue St. Urbain, Montreal, QC, H2X 2P2 Canada

2 Respiratory Division, Research Institute of McGill University Health Centre, 2155 Guy Street, Suite 900 Montreal, QC, H3H 2R9 Canada

3 Respiratory Division, Laval University, 2325 rue de l'Université, Québec, QC, G1V0A6 Canada

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Respiratory Research 2011, 12:43  doi:10.1186/1465-9921-12-43

Published: 10 April 2011



Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive and irreversible chronic inflammatory disease of the lung. The nature of the immune reaction in COPD raises the possibility that IL-17 and related cytokines may contribute to this disorder. This study analyzed the expression of IL-17A and IL-17F as well as the phenotype of cells producing them in bronchial biopsies from COPD patients.


Bronchoscopic biopsies of the airway were obtained from 16 COPD subjects (GOLD stage 1-4) and 15 control subjects. Paraffin sections were used for the investigation of IL-17A and IL-17F expression in the airways by immunohistochemistry, and frozen sections were used for the immunofluorescence double staining of IL-17A or IL-17F paired with CD4 or CD8. In order to confirm the expression of IL-17A and IL-17F at the mRNA level, a quantitative RT-PCR was performed on the total mRNA extracted from entire section or CD8 positive cells selected by laser capture microdissection.


IL-17F immunoreactivity was significantly higher in the bronchial biopsies of COPD patients compared to control subjects (P < 0.0001). In the submucosa, the absolute number of both IL-17A and IL-17F positive cells was higher in COPD patients (P < 0.0001). After adjusting for the total number of cells in the submucosa, we still found that more cells were positive for both IL-17A (P < 0.0001) and IL-17F (P < 0.0001) in COPD patients compared to controls. The mRNA expression of IL-17A and IL-17F in airways of COPD patients was confirmed by RT-PCR. The expression of IL-17A and IL-17F was co-localized with not only CD4 but also CD8, which was further confirmed by RT-PCR on laser capture microdissection selected CD8 positive cells.


These findings support the notion that Th17 cytokines could play important roles in the pathogenesis of COPD, raising the possibility of using this mechanism as the basis for novel therapeutic approaches.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease; IL-17; Tc17 cells