The obesity paradox in COPD describes protective effects of obesity on lung pathology and inflammation. However, the underlying relationships between obesity, diet and disease outcomes in COPD are not fully understood. In this study we measured the response to dietary fatty acids upon markers of inflammation and remodelling in human lung cells from people with and without COPD.
Pulmonary fibroblasts were challenged with ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), ω-6 PUFAs, saturated fatty acids (SFAs) or the obesity-associated cytokine TNFα. After 48–72 h release of the pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin (IL)-6 and CXCL8 was measured using ELISA and mRNA expression and deposition of the extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins fibronectin, type I collagen, tenascin and perlecan were measured using qPCR or ECM ELISA, respectively.
Challenge with the ω-6 PUFA arachidonic acid (AA), but not ω-3 PUFAs or SFAs, resulted in increased IL-6 and CXCL8 release from fibroblasts, however IL-6 and CXCL8 release was reduced in COPD (n = 19) compared to non-COPD (n = 36). AA-induced cytokine release was partially mediated by downstream mediators of cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 in both COPD and non-COPD. In comparison, TNFα-induced IL-6 and CXCL8 release was similar in COPD and non-COPD, indicating a specific interaction of AA in COPD. In patients with or without COPD, regression analysis revealed no relationship between BMI and cytokine release. In addition, AA, but not SFAs or ω-3 PUFAs reduced the basal deposition of fibronectin, type I collagen, tenascin and perlecan into the ECM in COPD fibroblasts. In non-COPD fibroblasts, AA-challenge decreased basal deposition of type I collagen and perlecan, but not fibronectin and tenascin.
This study shows that AA has disease-specific effects on inflammation and ECM protein deposition. The impaired response to AA in COPD might in part explain why obesity appears to have less detrimental effects in COPD, compared to other lung diseases.