Metabolic differences between bronchial epithelium from healthy individuals and patients with asthma and the effect of bronchial thermoplasty

Abilash Ravi, Annika W. M. Goorsenberg, Annemiek Dijkhuis, Barbara S. Dierdorp, Tamara Dekker, Michel van Weeghel, Yanaika S. Sabogal Piñeros, Pallav L. Shah, Nick H. T. ten Hacken, Jouke T. Annema, Peter J. Sterk, Frédéric M. Vaz, Peter I. Bonta, René Lutter

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29 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Asthma is a heterogeneous disease with differences in onset, severity, and inflammation. Bronchial epithelial cells (BECs) contribute to asthma pathophysiology. Objective: We determined whether transcriptomes of BECs reflect heterogeneity in inflammation and severity in asthma, and whether this was affected in BECs from patients with severe asthma after their regeneration by bronchial thermoplasty. Methods: RNA sequencing was performed on BECs obtained by bronchoscopy from healthy controls (n = 16), patients with mild asthma (n = 17), patients with moderate asthma (n = 5), and patients with severe asthma (n = 17), as well as on BECs from treated and untreated airways of the latter (also 6 months after bronchial thermoplasty) (n = 23). Lipidome and metabolome analyses were performed on cultured BECs from healthy controls (n = 7); patients with severe asthma (n = 9); and, for comparison, patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (n = 7). Results: Transcriptome analysis of BECs from patients showed a reduced expression of oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) genes, most profoundly in patients with severe asthma but less profoundly and more heterogeneously in patients with mild asthma. Genes related to fatty acid metabolism were significantly upregulated in asthma. Lipidomics revealed enhanced levels of lipid species (phosphatidylcholines, lysophosphatidylcholines. and bis(monoacylglycerol)phosphate), whereas levels of OXPHOS metabolites were reduced in BECs from patients with severe asthma. BECs from patients with mild asthma characterized by hyperresponsive production of mediators implicated in neutrophilic inflammation had decreased expression of OXPHOS genes compared with that in BECs from patients with mild asthma with normoresponsive production. BECs obtained after thermoplasty had significantly increased expression of OXPHOS genes and decreased expression of fatty acid metabolism genes compared with BECs obtained from untreated airways. Conclusion: BECs in patients with asthma are metabolically different from those in healthy individuals. These differences are linked with inflammation and asthma severity, and they can be reversed by bronchial thermoplasty.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1236-1248
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of allergy and clinical immunology
Issue number5
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


  • Bronchial epithelium
  • metabolism
  • thermoplasty

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