Steroid-induced Deficiency of Mucosal-associated Invariant T Cells in the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Lung. Implications for Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae Infection.
Hinks TS., Wallington JC., Williams AP., Djukanović R., Staples KJ., Wilkinson TM.
RATIONALE: Mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells are a recently described abundant, proinflammatory T-cell subset with unknown roles in pulmonary immunity. Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi) is the leading bacterial pathogen during chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbations and is a plausible target for MAIT cells. OBJECTIVES: To investigate whether MAIT cells respond to NTHi and the effects of inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) on their frequency and function in COPD. METHODS: Eleven subjects with COPD receiving ICS, 8 steroid-naive subjects with COPD, and 21 healthy control subjects underwent phlebotomy, sputum induction, bronchoalveolar lavage, and endobronchial biopsy. Pulmonary and monocyte-derived macrophages were cultured in vitro with NTHi. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Frequencies of Vα7.2(+)CD161(+) MAIT cells, surface expression of the major histocompatibility complex-related protein 1 (MR1), and intracellular IFN-γ expression were measured by flow cytometry. MAIT-cell frequencies were reduced in peripheral blood of ICS-treated subjects with COPD (median 0.38%; interquartile range [IQR], 0.25-0.96) compared with healthy control subjects (1.8%; IQR, 1.4-2.5; P = 0.001) or steroid-naive patients with COPD (1.8%; IQR, 1.2-2.3; P = 0.04). MAIT cells were reduced in bronchial biopsies from subjects with COPD treated with steroids (0.73%; IQR, 0.46-1.3) compared with healthy control subjects (4.0%; IQR, 1.6-5.0; P = 0.02). Coculture of live NTHi increased macrophage surface expression of MR1 and induced IFN-γ from CD4 cells and CD8 cells, but most potently from MAIT cells (median IFN-γ-positive frequencies, 2.9, 8.6, and 27.6%, respectively). In vitro fluticasone and budesonide reduced MR1 surface expression twofold and decreased NTHi-induced IFN-γ secretion eightfold. CONCLUSIONS: MAIT cells are deficient in blood and bronchial tissue in steroid-treated, but not steroid-naive, COPD. NTHi constitutes a target for pulmonary MAIT-cell immune responses, which are significantly impaired by corticosteroids.