Background The sequence of events following the recruitment of a free-flowing neutrophil in the peripheral circulation, via adhesion, migration and release of mediators, to a neutrophil on the surface of the nasal epithelium is a co-ordinated process. Little is known about the state of neutrophil activation following this course of events.
Objectives To investigate the expression of surface activation markers on neutrophils, reflecting activation during their recruitment to the nose, and to see whether the inflammatory process during allergic rhinitis influences this process.
Method Nine healthy controls and 12 patients with grass pollen-induced intermittent allergic rhinitis were investigated during the peak of the pollen season. The expression of CD11b, CD66b and CD63 on the neutrophil cell surface, as a reflection of activation, was analysed using flow cytometry. Neutrophils were derived from peripheral blood and nasal lavage fluid. In addition, eosinophil cationic protein (ECP) and myeloperoxidase (MPO) as well as L-, P- and E-selectins in the nasal lavage fluid were analysed using RIA and ELISA, respectively.
Results A marked increase in the expression of all three CD markers on the neutrophil cell surface was noticed following migration from the bloodstream to the surface of the nasal mucosa. At the peak of the grass pollen season, the MPO levels increased, reflecting an increase in the total number of nasal fluid neutrophils. In parallel, the expression of CD11b was further augmented. The expression of the CDb11b was reduced on neutrophils remaining in the circulation. In addition, the level of L-selectin was reduced on neutrophils derived from the blood during allergic inflammation.
Conclusion Neutrophils might become activated during their transfer from the blood to the surface of the nasal mucosa, but these changes may also be due to depletion of activated neutrophils in the blood via activated endothelial/epithelial adhesion and chemoattractant measures. The increased expression of surface activation markers during allergic rhinitis suggests roles for neutrophils in the inflammatory process.