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Thorax 68:76-81 doi:10.1136/thoraxjnl-2012-202288
  • Respiratory infection

Respiratory syncytial virus infection of airway epithelial cells, in vivo and in vitro, supports pulmonary antibody responses by inducing expression of the B cell differentiation factor BAFF

  1. B F Flanagan1
  1. 1Department of Women's and Children's Health, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool, Alder Hey Children's NHS Foundation Trust Hospital, Liverpool, UK
  2. 2Department of Clinical Infection, Microbiology and Immunology, Institute of Infection and Global Health, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  3. 3Instituto de Medicina Integral Professor Fernando Figueira (IMIP), Recife, Brazil
  4. 4Molecular and Clinical Cancer Medicine, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr B F Flanagan, Department of Women's and Children's Health, Institute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool, Alder Hey Children's NHS Foundation Trust Hospital, Eaton Road, Liverpool, L12 2AP, UK; fla1{at}liv.ac.uk
  • Received 15 June 2012
  • Revised 31 July 2012
  • Accepted 20 August 2012
  • Published Online First 21 September 2012

Abstract

Background The mechanisms regulating antibody expression within the human lung during airway infection are largely unknown. In this study, our objectives were to determine if infection with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) upregulates expression of the B cell differentiation factors A proliferation inducing ligand (APRIL) and B cell activating factor of the TNF family (BAFF), if this is a common feature of viral airway infection, and how this is regulated in human airway epithelial cells.

Methods We measured BAFF and APRIL protein expression in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid from infants with severe RSV disease, and healthy control children, and in nasopharyngeal aspirates from preschool children with other single respiratory viral infections. We also measured mRNA expression in bronchial brushings from RSV-infected infants, and in RSV-infected paediatric primary airway epithelial cell cultures (pAEC). Beas-2B cell cultures were used to examine mechanisms regulating BAFF expression.

Results BAFF protein and mRNA were elevated (in marked contrast with APRIL) in BAL and bronchial brushings, respectively, from RSV-infected infants. BAFF protein was also found in upper airway secretions from children with human metapneumovirus, H1N1, bocavirus, rhinovirus, RSV and Mycoplasma pneumoniae infection. BAFF mRNA and protein were expressed following in vitro RSV infection of both pAEC and Beas-2B cultures, with mRNA expression peaking 12-h postinfection. BAFF induction was blocked by addition of a neutralising anti-interferon-β antibody or palivizumab.

Conclusions BAFF, produced through an interferon-β-dependant process, is a consistent feature of airway infection, and suggests a role for the airway epithelia in supporting protective antibody and B cell responses in the lung.

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