Background The role of toll-like receptors (TLRs) and innate immune activation in clinical asthma exacerbations and their relationship to virus infection are unclear.
Objective This study aimed to characterize TLR expression and innate immune activity during virus infection in acute asthma.
Methods Subjects with acute asthma, stable asthma and healthy controls were recruited and underwent spirometry and sputum induction with isotonic saline. Selected sputum was dispersed with dithiothreitol and total and differential leucocyte counts were performed. Selected sputum was also used for quantitative real-time PCR for TLR2, TLR3, TLR4, IL-10 and IP-10mRNA expression. Sputum supernatant was used for the measurement of innate immune markers, including IL-8, matrix metalloproteinase-9 and neutrophil elastase activity. Viruses were detected using real-time and gel-based PCR.
Results Sputum TLR2 mRNA expression was up-regulated in both acute and stable asthma compared with healthy controls and decreased 4–6 weeks after acute exacerbation. Sputum TLR2 mRNA expression was elevated in viral, compared with non-viral, acute asthma. Sputum TLR3 mRNA expression was similar in controls, stable and acute asthma. However, in acute asthma, subjects with virus-induced acute asthma had significantly higher sputum TLR3 mRNA expression. Induced sputum gene expression for IP-10 and IL-10 were increased in viral, compared with non-viral, acute asthma. In virus-induced acute asthma, levels of IP-10 and IL-10 mRNA expression were correlated with the mRNA expression of TLR2 and TLR3.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance Virus-induced acute asthma leads to specific induction of TLR2, TLR3, IP-10 and IL-10, suggesting that signalling via TLRs may play an important role in mediating airway inflammation, via both innate and adaptive pathways, in virus-induced exacerbations. These mediators may provide potential treatment targets for virus-induced asthma. They may also be useful in diagnosing the nature of acute asthma exacerbations and monitoring treatment responses, which would be useful in the clinical management of asthma exacerbations.
Cite this as: L. G. Wood, J. L. Simpson, P. A. B. Wark, H. Powell and P. G. Gibson, Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 2011 (41) 640–648.