A novel insight into adaptive immunity in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: B cell activating factor belonging to the tumor necrosis factor family

Francesca Polverino, Simonetta Baraldo, Erica Bazzan, Simone Agostini, Graziella Turato, Francesca Lunardi, Elisabetta Balestro, Marco Damin, Alberto Papi, Piero Maestrelli, Fiorella Calabrese, Marina Saetta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Rationale: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a disorder characterized by an abnormal inflammatory response that persists even after smoking cessation, yet the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood. Objectives: To investigate the expression of B-cell activating factor of tumor necrosis factor family (BAFF), a crucial mediator in the cross-talk between innate and adaptive immune responses, in patients with COPD and to explore its correlation with disease severity. Methods: Using immunohistochemistry, expression of BAFF was examined in lung specimens from 21 smokers with COPD (FEV1 = 57 ± 5%predicted), 14 control smokers (FEV 1= 99 ± 2% predicted) and 8 nonsmokers (FEV1 = 104 ± 4% predicted). BAFF was quantified in alveolar macrophages and alveolar walls, in bronchiolar and parenchymal lymphoid follicles, and in peripheral airways and pulmonary arterioles. Measurements and Main Results: In alveolar macrophages and parenchymal lymphoid follicles, BAFF expression was increased in smokers with COPD compared with control smokers and nonsmokers (P < 0.05 for all comparisons). In both compartments, BAFF was also up-regulated in control smokers as compared with nonsmokers (P = 0.03 and P < 0.01). Moreover, BAFF was overexpressed in bronchiolar lymphoid follicles, alveolar walls, peripheral airways, and pulmonary arterioles from smokers with COPD compared with non-smokers (P < 0.05 for all). Among patients with COPD, BAFF+ macrophages were inversely related to FEV1 (P = 0.03, Spearman's rho [rS] = -0.48), FEV1/FVC (P = 0.02, rS = -0.50), and PaO2 values (P = 0.01, rS = -0.55). Conclusions: This study demonstrated overexpression of BAFF in peripheral lung of patients with COPD, mainly in alveolar macrophages and lymphoid follicles. Moreover, BAFF expression was correlated to the degree of lung function impairment and hypoxia, suggesting that it may have a possible impact on disease severity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1011-1019
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican journal of respiratory and critical care medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 15 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Airflow limitation
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Inflammatory cells
  • Lymphoid follicles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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