Clinical and Experimental Allergy vol:38 issue:9 pages:1459-1467
BACKGROUND: The increased susceptibility of asthmatics to rhinovirus infection has recently been related to deficient IFN-lambda 1 (IL-29) and IFN-lambda 2/3 (IL-28) production by bronchial epithelial cells and macrophages. OBJECTIVES: Here, we studied IFN-lambda mRNA expression in the airways of stable asthmatics in comparison with healthy subjects and in relation to asthma symptoms, non-invasive parameters of airway inflammation and lung function parameters. METHODS: Airway cells were obtained by sputum induction, in 14 healthy and 35 asthmatic adults and 12 asthmatic school-aged children. IFN-lambda was studied at the mRNA level by quantitative RT-PCR. RESULTS: Asthmatic adults have increased sputum IL-28 mRNA but similar IL-29 mRNA expression in comparison with healthy subjects. In asthmatics, both sputum IL-28 and IL-29 mRNA expression correlate with the sputum CD3 gamma mRNA expression (reflecting infiltrated T cells). IL-28 (but not IL-29) mRNA levels correlate with the relative and absolute number of eosinophils present in the sputum sample. Sputum IL-29 mRNA (but not IL-28) correlates negatively with asthma symptoms in steroid-naive patients and is significantly higher in steroid-treated than in steroid-naive patients. Finally, both IL-28 and IL-29 mRNA levels are higher in asthmatic children than in asthmatic adults. CONCLUSION: Our results show that asthmatic subjects have substantial type III IFN-lambda mRNA levels in the airways. Our data furthermore suggest that IL-29 could have an immunoprotective role in the lower airways.