Enhanced glucocorticoid sensitivity of cytokine release from circulating leukocytes stimulated with lipopolysaccharide in healthy male smokers

Department of Clinical Psychology II, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
Brain Behavior and Immunity (Impact Factor: 5.89). 11/2004; 18(6):536-43. DOI: 10.1016/j.bbi.2004.01.002
Source: PubMed


Smoking is a strong cardiovascular risk factor that promotes inflammation. The source of elevated pro-inflammatory cytokines in the circulation of smokers is not fully understood. We investigated the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines from circulating leukocytes stimulated with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and its inhibition by glucocorticoids in smokers and non-smokers. Ninety-three middle-aged apparently healthy men were categorized as smokers (> 10 cigarettes/day; n = 41) or life-long non-smokers (n = 52). Peripheral cortisol was assessed from overnight urine. C-reactive protein (CRP) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha were measured in plasma. LPS-stimulated interleukin (IL)-6 and TNF-alpha release from harvested circulating leukocytes were assessed using an in vitro whole blood assay with and without co-incubation of increasing concentrations of either dexamethasone or hydrocortisone. Glucocorticoid sensitivity was defined as the concentration of glucocorticoids required that inhibits LPS-stimulated cytokine release by 50%. Smokers had higher CRP levels (p = .005) and a trend for higher basal TNF-alpha levels (p < .07), and they also showed lower IL-6 and TNF-alpha release after LPS-stimulation than non-smokers (p's < .001). While peripheral cortisol concentration showed no significant group difference, inhibition of LPS-stimulated leukocyte IL-6 and TNF-alpha release by either glucocorticoid was enhanced in smokers as compared to non-smokers (p's < .022). The finding suggests that, in spite of a low-grade systemic inflammation, smokers have decreased LPS-stimulated cytokine release from circulating leukocytes and greater glucocorticoid sensitivity of this cytokine release than non-smokers. Circulating leukocytes unlikely contribute to the elevated pro-inflammatory cytokine levels in the blood of smokers.

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