by Benjamin B. Davis, Yi-Hsin Shen, Daniel J. Tancredi, Vanessa Flores, Ryan P. Davis, Kent E. Pinkerton
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) kills approximately 2.8 million people each year, and more than 80% of COPD cases can be attributed to smoking. Leukocytes recruited to the lung contribute to COPD pathology by releasing reactive oxygen metabolites and proteolytic enzymes. In this work, we investigated where leukocytes enter the lung in the early stages of COPD in order to better understand their effect as a contributor to the development of COPD. We simultaneously evaluated the parenchyma and airways for neutrophil accumulation, as well as increases in the adhesion molecules and chemokines that cause leukocyte recruitment in the early stages of tobacco smoke induced lung disease. We found neutrophil accumulation and increased expression of adhesion molecules and chemokines in the bronchial blood vessels that correlated with the accumulation of leukocytes recovered from the lung. The expression of adhesion molecules and chemokines in other vascular beds did not correlate with leukocytes recovered in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF). These data strongly suggest leukocytes are recruited in large measure through the bronchial circulation in response to tobacco smoke. Our findings have important implications for understanding the etiology of COPD and suggest that pharmaceuticals designed to reduce leukocyte recruitment through the bronchial circulation may be a potential therapy to treat COPD.