Background A population of small macrophages with increased pro-inflammatory activity has been reported in COPD sputum. We have investigated macrophage size in the alveoli of COPD patients using immunofluorescence for the markers CX3CR1 and CD68.
Methods Formalin fixed paraffin embedded tissue blocks were obtained from an area of the lung as far distal to the tumour as possible from COPD patients, smokers (S) and healthy non-smokers (HNS) undergoing lung resection for lung carcinoma. Sections were labelled with an anti-CX3CR1 antibody and detected using an Alexafluor conjugated secondary antibody. Immunohistochemical detection of CD68 (enzymatic non-biotin amplification technique) confirmed the macrophage phenotype of CX3CR1+ cells.
Conclusion Increased macrophage size in COPD may be linked to altered function. Pulmonary intravascular macrophages have been observed in other mammalian species and may promote pulmonary inflammation through direct release of cytokines into the pulmonary circulation.