March 5, 2018

Clinical implications of CD4+ T cell subsets in adult atopic asthma patients

  • Matthew Wiest,
  • Katherine Upchurch,
  • Wenjie Yin,
  • Jerome Ellis,
  • Yaming Xue,
  • Bobby Lanier,
  • Mark Millard,
  • HyeMee Joo and
  • SangKon OhEmail authorView ORCID ID profile
Contributed equally
Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology201814:7


Background T cells play a central role in chronic inflammation in asthma. However, the roles of individual subsets of T cells in the pathology of asthma in patients remain to be better understood.

Methods We investigated the potential signatures of T cell subset phenotypes in asthma using fresh whole blood from adult atopic asthma patients (n = 43) and non-asthmatic control subjects (n = 22). We further assessed their potential clinical implications by correlating asthma severity.

Results We report four major features of CD4+ T cells in the blood of atopic asthma patients. First, patients had a profound increase of CCR7+ memory CD4+ T cells, but not CCR7 memory CD4+ T cells. Second, an increase in CCR4+ CD4+ T cells in patients was mainly attributed to the increase of CCR7+ memory CD4+ T cells. Accordingly, the frequency of CCR4+CCR7+ memory CD4+ T cells correlated with asthma severity. Current common asthma therapeutics (including corticosteroids) were not able to affect the frequency of CCR4+CCR7+ memory CD4+ T cell subsets. Third, patients had an increase of Tregs, as assessed by measuring CD25, Foxp3, IL-10 and CTLA-4 expression. However, asthma severity was inversely correlated only with the frequency of CTLA-4+ CD4+ T cells. Lastly, patients and control subjects have similar frequencies of CD4+ T cells that express CCR5, CCR6, CXCR3, CXCR5, CD11a, or α4 integrin. However, the frequency of α4+ CD4+ T cells in patients correlated with asthma severity.

Conclusions CCR4+CCR7+ memory, but not CCR4+CCR7 memory, α4+, and CTLA4+ CD4+ T cells in patients show significant clinical implications in atopic asthma. Current common therapeutics cannot alter the frequency of such CD4+ T cell subsets in adult atopic asthma patients.

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