Original Article

Expression and pathological significance of CC chemokine receptor 7 and its ligands in the airway of asthmatic rats exposed to cigarette smoke

Jun-Feng Zhang, Yi Li, Ai-Zhen Zhang, Qian-Qian He, Yong-Cheng Du, Wen Cao


Background: Cigarette smoking aggravates the symptoms of asthma, leading to the rapid decline of lung function. Dendritic cells (DCs) and lymphocytes are considered initiating and promoting factors for the airway inflammation reactions of asthma. In addition, activation of CC chemokine receptor 7 (CCR7) by chemokine (C-C motif) ligand (CCL) 19 and 21 promotes DCs and T cells migration to lymphoid tissues during inflammation. We aimed to examine how cigarette smoke affects the expression of CCR7 in the lungs of asthmatic rats and explore the signaling mechanism linking CCR7 expression to exacerbation of symptoms.
Methods: Forty Wistar rats were randomized to four groups: control, asthma, smoke exposure, and asthma with smoke exposure groups. A rat asthma model was established by intraperitoneal ovalbumin injection. CCR7 expression was examined with immunohistochemistry and western blotting. The number of airway DCs was determined by OX62 immunohistochemistry. Interferon (INF)-γ, interleukin (IL)-4, CCL19, and CCL21 expression levels in blood and bronchioalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs).
Results: Tissue CCR7 expression, peripheral blood and BALF CCL19 and CCL21 concentrations, and the number of airway DCs were significantly higher in the asthma with smoke exposure group than the asthma group (P<0.01). In addition, INF-γ expression was decreased and IL-4 increased in the asthma and asthma with smoke exposure groups compared with the control group (P<0.01), and in the asthma with smoke exposure group compared with the asthma group (P<0.01). Expression of CCR7 correlated negatively with INF-γ expression in peripheral blood and BALF (P<0.01), and positively with the airway DCs and IL-4 expression in the peripheral blood and BALF (P<0.01).
Conclusions: Cigarette smoking may aggravate asthma symptoms by attenuating immunity, possibly through CCR7-mediated DCs aggregation in lung tissue.

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