Pneumocystis jirovecii colonization is associated with enhanced Th1 inflammatory gene expression in lungs of humans with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease



Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a complex disease, the pathogenesis of which remains incompletely understood. Colonization with Pneumocystis jirovecii may play a role in COPD pathogenesis; however, the mechanisms by which such colonization contributes to COPD are unknown. The objective of this study was to determine lung gene expression profiles associated with Pneumocystis colonization in patients with COPD to identify potential key pathways involved in disease pathogenesis. Using COPD lung tissue samples made available through the Lung Tissue Research Consortium (LTRC), Pneumocystis colonization status was determined by nested PCR. Microarray gene expression profiles were performed for each sample and the profiles of colonized and non-colonized samples compared. Overall, 18 participants (8.5%) were Pneumocystis-colonized. Pneumocystis colonization was associated with fold increase in expression of four closely related genes: INF-γ and the three chemokine ligands CXCL9, CXCL10, and CXCL11. These ligands are chemoattractants for the common cognate receptor CXCR3, which is predominantly expressed on activated Th1 T-lymphocytes. Although these ligand–receptor pairs have previously been implicated in COPD pathogenesis, few initiators of ligand expression and subsequent lymphocyte trafficking have been identified: our findings implicate Pneumocystis as a potential trigger. The finding of upregulation of these inflammatory genes in the setting of Pneumocystis colonization sheds light on infectious-immune relationships in COPD.