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01.12.2016 | Research | Ausgabe 1/2016 Open Access

Respiratory Research 1/2016

Steroid resistance in COPD is associated with impaired molecular chaperone Hsp90 expression by pro-inflammatory lymphocytes

Respiratory Research > Ausgabe 1/2016
Greg Hodge, Eugene Roscioli, Hubertus Jersmann, Hai B. Tran, Mark Holmes, Paul N. Reynolds, Sandra Hodge



Corticosteroid resistance is a major barrier to effective treatment of COPD. We have shown that the resistance is associated with decreased expression of glucocorticoid receptor (GCR) by senescent CD28nullCD8+ pro-inflammatory lymphocytes in peripheral blood of COPD patients. GCR must be bound to molecular chaperones heat shock proteins (Hsp) 70 and Hsp90 to acquire a high-affinity steroid binding conformation, and traffic to the nucleus. We hypothesized a loss of Hsp70/90 from these lymphocytes may further contribute to steroid resistance in COPD.


Blood was collected from COPD (n = 10) and aged-matched controls (n = 10). To assess response to steroids, cytotoxic mediators, intracellular pro-inflammatory cytokines, CD28, GCR, Hsp70 and Hsp90 were determined in T and NKT-like cells in the presence of ± 10 μM prednisolone and 2.5 ng/mL cyclosporine A (binds to GCR-Hsp70/90 complex) using flow cytometry, western blot and fluorescence microscopy.


A loss of expression of Hsp90 and GCR from CD28null CD8+ T and NKT-like cells in COPD was noted (Hsp70 unchanged). Loss of Hsp90 expression correlated with the percentage of CD28null CD8+ T and NKT-like cells producing IFNγ or TNFα in all subjects (eg, COPD: R = −0.763, p = 0.007 for T-cell IFNγ). Up-regulation of Hsp90 and associated decrease in pro-inflammatory cytokine production was found in CD28nullCD8+ T and NKT-like cells in the presence of 10 μM prednisolone and 2.5 ng/mL cyclosporine A.


Loss of Hsp90 from cytotoxic/pro-inflammatory CD28nullCD8+ T and NKT-like cells could contribute to steroid resistance in COPD. Combination prednisolone and low-dose cyclosporine A therapy inhibits these pro-inflammatory cells and may reduce systemic inflammation in COPD.
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