BMC pulmonary medicine

Targeting peripheral blood pro-inflammatory cytotoxic lymphocytes by inhibiting CD137 expression: novel potential treatment for COPD.

PMID 24885856


We have shown that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is associated with increased production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and the cytotoxic mediator, granzyme B by peripheral blood steroid resistant CD28nullCD137 + CD8+ T cells and granzyme B by NKT-like and NK cells. We hypothesized that we could target these pro-inflammatory/cytotoxic lymphocytes by inhibiting co-stimulation through CD137. Isolated PBMC from patients with COPD and healthy controls were stimulated with phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) ± blocking anti-CD137 ± 10(-6) M methylprednislone (MP) (±stimulatory anti-CD137 ± control antibodies). Pro-inflammatory cytokine profiles and expression of granzyme B, by T, NKT-like CD28 ± subsets and NK cells were determined using flow cytometry. There was a significant decrease in the percentage of T, NKT-like subsets and NK cells producing IFNγ, TNFα and granzyme B in all subjects in the presence of anti-CD137 blocking antibody compared with PHA alone (eg, 60% decrease in CD8 + granzyme B + cells) or MP. Stimulatory anti-CD137 was associated with an increase in the percentage of pro-inflammatory/cytotoxic cells. The inhibitory effect of anti-CD137 on IFNγ, TNFα and granzyme B production by CD28null cells was greater than by CD28+ cells. Blocking CD137 expression is associated with downregulation of IFNγ, TNFα and granzyme B by CD8+ T and NKT-like and NK cells. Targeting CD137 may have novel therapeutic implications for patients with COPD.