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Increased interleukin-13 expression in patients with sarcoidosis
  1. H-P Hauber,
  2. D Gholami,
  3. A Meyer,
  4. A Pforte
  1. Department of Internal Medicine, University Hospital Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr H-P Hauber, Meakins-Christie Laboratories, 3626 St-Urbain Street, Montreal, Quebec H2X 2P2, Canada;


Background: Sarcoidosis is a systemic granulomatous disorder of unknown origin. Lymphocytic inflammation is dominated by expression of Th1 type cytokines such as tumour necrosis factor α (TNFα). Interleukin 13 (IL-13) is a Th2 cytokine which is expressed by CD4+ T cells and has been shown to suppress TNFα in human blood monocytes. The role of IL-13 as a possible anti-inflammatory cytokine in sarcoidosis was investigated.

Methods: mRNA expression of IL-13, IL-4, IL-10, and TNFα in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid cells and peripheral mononuclear blood cells (PBM) of 18 patients with sarcoidosis and nine healthy controls was assessed using RT-PCR. In addition, IL-13 protein levels in BAL cell culture supernatants from 12 patients and all controls were measured and immunocytochemistry of IL-13 protein was performed in BAL fluid cells of eight patients. TNFα concentrations were measured with and without stimulation with recombinant human (rh) IL-13, rhIL-10, and lipopolysaccharide (LPS).

Results: IL-13 mRNA expression was significantly increased in BAL cells and PBM of patients compared with controls (p<0.05). No significant difference was found in IL-4 mRNA or IL-10 mRNA expression in BAL fluid cells or PBM between the two groups. TNFα mRNA expression was significantly higher in BAL fluid cells of patients than controls (p<0.05). IL-13 protein levels in BAL cell culture supernatants were slightly raised in half the patients investigated but in only two controls. Immunocytochemistry detected IL-13 protein in alveolar macrophages of patients. IL-13 led to decreased TNFα concentrations (p<0.05).

Conclusions: IL-13 expression is increased in BAL cells and PBM in sarcoidosis and IL-13 is secreted from BAL cells. Alveolar macrophages may be the cellular source. These data suggest that IL-13 might have an anti-inflammatory effect by acting on TNFα.

  • interleukin-13
  • sarcoidosis
  • tumour necrosis factor α
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  • Hans-Peter Hauber is supported by a scholarship from the German Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

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