Background Fibrocytes express several chemokine receptors (CCR7 and CXCR4) that regulate their recruitment and trafficking into tissue-damage sites in response to specific chemokine gradients (CCL19 and CXCL12). Objective We investigated whether these chemoattractants and S100A9, through the receptor for advanced glycation end-products (RAGE; ie, its receptor), are involved in fibrocyte trafficking in patients with chronic obstructive asthma (COA) and during an acute exacerbation (AE) in patients without airflow obstruction (Asthma AE group). Methods We collected peripheral blood from 14 asthmatic patients with normal pulmonary function, 14 patients with COA, 11 patients in the Asthma AE group, and 14 healthy subjects. Isolated circulating fibrocytes were used for migration assay. Expression of CCR7, CXCR4, S100A9, and RAGE in fibrocytes was measured by using flow cytometry. CCL19 and CXCL12 expression in bronchial tissues was determined by using immunohistochemistry and RT-PCR. Results There were higher numbers of circulating fibrocytes in patients in the Asthma AE group and patients with COA. The expression of CXCL12 in bronchial tissues and CXCR4 in circulating fibrocytes was higher in the Asthma AE group and, to a lesser extent, in patients with COA. The expression of CCL19 in bronchial tissues and CCR7 in fibrocytes was higher in patients with COA. CXCL12/CXCR4 and CCL19/CCR7 enhanced fibrocyte transmigration in the Asthma AE group and in patients with COA, respectively. The upregulated expression of S100A9 and RAGE in fibrocytes of patients in the Asthma AE group and those with COA contributes to the enhanced basal migratory motility of fibrocytes. Conclusion The CXCR4/CXCL12 axis contributes to chemotaxis of fibrocytes in patients in the Asthma AE group, whereas the CCR7/CCL19 axis plays an important role in patients with COA. S100A9 enhances the basal migratory motility of fibrocytes from patients in the Asthma AE group and patients with COA.
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