Differential responses of COPD macrophages to respiratory bacterial pathogens

Simon Lea, Augusta Beech, James Baker, Rosemary Gaskell, Dharmendra Pindolia, Aisha Baba Dikwa, Rajesh Shah, Dave Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


COPD patients have increased susceptibility to airway bacterial colonisation. Haemophilus influenzae, Moraxella catarrhalis and Streptococcus pneumoniae are three of the most common respiratory bacterial species in COPD. H. influenzae colonisation, but not other bacteria, in COPD patients is associated with higher sputum neutrophil counts. Alveolar macrophages are key in clearance of bacteria as well as releasing mediators to recruit and activate other immune cells in response to infection. The aim was to characterise differences in COPD macrophage responses to H. influenzae, M. catarrhalis and S. pneumoniae, focusing on release of inflammatory and chemotactic mediators, and apoptosis regulation. Lung macrophages and monocyte-derived macrophages from COPD patients and control subjects were exposed to H. influenzae, M. catarrhalis or S. pneumoniae. Cytokine secretion (tumour necrosis factor-α, interleukin (IL)-6, CXCL8, CCL5 and IL-1β) were measured by ELISA and quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-qPCR), and apoptosis genes MCL-1, BCL-2, BAX and BAK1 by RT-qPCR. Apoptosis and reactive oxygen species (ROS) release were also measured. Macrophages responded differentially to the bacterial species, with increased, prolonged production of the neutrophil chemoattractant CXCL8 in response to H. influenzae and M. catarrhalis but not S. pneumoniae. S. pneumoniae initiated macrophage apoptosis and ROS release, H. influenzae and M. catarrhalis did not and increased anti-apoptosis gene expression (BCL-2 5.5-fold and MCL-1 2.4-fold, respectively). Differential cytokine responses of macrophages to these bacterial species can explain neutrophilic airway inflammation associated with H. influenzae, but not S. pneumoniae in COPD. Furthermore, delayed macrophage apoptosis is a potential mechanism contributing to inability to clear H. influenzae.

Original languageEnglish
Article number00044-2022
JournalERJ Open Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2022


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