Open Access Research article

A unique protein profile of peripheral neutrophils from COPD patients does not reflect cytokine-induced protein profiles of neutrophils in vitro

Jeroen D Langereis, René C Schweizer, Jan-Willem J Lammers, Leo Koenderman* and Laurien H Ulfman

Author Affiliations

Department of Respiratory Medicine, University Medical Center, Heidelberglaan 100, 3584 CX Utrecht, the Netherlands

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BMC Pulmonary Medicine 2011, 11:44  doi:10.1186/1471-2466-11-44

Published: 6 September 2011



Inflammation, both local and systemic, is a hallmark of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Inflammatory mediators such as TNFα and GM-CSF are secreted by lung epithelium, alveolar macrophages and other inflammatory cells and are thought to be important contributors in the pathogenesis of COPD. Indeed, neutrophils are activated by these cytokines and these cells are one of the major inflammatory cell types recruited to the pulmonary compartment of COPD patients. Furthermore, these inflammatory mediators are found in the peripheral blood of COPD patients and, therefore, we hypothesized that TNFα/GM-CSF-induced protein profiles can be found in peripheral neutrophils of COPD patients.


Using fluorescence 2-dimensional difference gel electrophoresis we investigated differentially regulated proteins in peripheral neutrophils from COPD patients and healthy age-matched control subjects. Furthermore, protein profiles from COPD patients were compared with those of neutrophils of healthy age-matched controls that were stimulated with TNFα and/or GM-CSF in vitro. Protein gels were compared using DeCyder 7.0 software.


We identified 7 significantly regulated protein spots between peripheral neutrophils from COPD patients and age-matched healthy control subjects. Stimulation of peripheral neutrophils with TNFα, GM-CSF or TNFα + GM-CSF in vitro resulted in 13, 20 and 22 regulated protein spots, respectively. However, these cytokine-induced protein differences did not correspond with the protein differences found in neutrophils from COPD patients.


These results show that neutrophils from COPD patients have a unique protein profile compared to neutrophils from healthy age-matched controls. Furthermore, the neutrophil profiles of COPD patients do not reflect putative dominant signals induced by TNFα, GM-CSF or their combination. Our results indicate that systemic neutrophil responses in COPD patients are caused by a unique but subtle interplay between multiple inflammatory signals.