Differential expression of sputum and serum autoantibodies in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Steven P. Cass, Anna Dvorkin-Gheva, Yuqiong Yang, Joshua J.C. McGrath, Danya Thayaparan, Jing Xiao, Fengyan Wang, Manali Mukherjee, Fei Long, Tao Peng, Parameswaran Nair, Zhenyu Liang, Christopher S. Stevenson, Quan Zhen Li, Rongchang Chen, Martin R. Stampfli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a complex and progressive respiratory disease. Autoimmune processes have been hypothesized to contribute to disease progression; however, the presence of autoantibodies in the serum has been variable. Given that COPD is a lung disease, we sought to investigate whether autoantibodies in sputum supernatant would better define pulmonary autoimmune processes. Matched sputum and serum samples were obtained from the Airways Disease Endotyping for Personalized Therapeutics (ADEPT) study and at the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Health (GIRH). Samples were collected from patients with varying severity of COPD, asymptomatic smokers, and healthy control subjects. IgG and IgM autoantibodies were detected in sputum and serum of all subjects in both cohorts using a broad-spectrum autoantigen array. No differences were observed in sputum autoantibodies between COPD and asymptomatic smokers in either cohort. In contrast, 16% of detectable sputum IgG autoantibodies were decreased in subjects with COPD compared to healthy controls in the ADEPT cohort. Compared to asymptomatic smokers, approximately 13% of detectable serum IgG and 40% of detectable serum IgM autoantibodies were differentially expressed in GIRH COPD subjects. Of the differentially expressed specificities, anti-nuclear autoantibodies were predominately decreased. A weak correlation between increased serum IgM anti-tissue autoantibodies and a measure of airspace enlargement was observed. The differential expression of specificities varied between the cohorts. In closing, using a comprehensive autoantibody array, we demonstrate that autoantibodies are present in subjects with COPD, asymptomatic smokers, and healthy controls. Cohorts displayed high levels of heterogeneity, precluding the utilization of autoantibodies for diagnostic purposes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L1169-L1182
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Autoantibody
  • Autoimmune
  • COPD
  • Serum
  • Sputum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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