Necropsy specimens were obtained from the lungs of 10 subjects who had no history of lung disease, 10 who had died with chronic bronchitis, and 10 with bronchiectasis. Tissue sections were stained for IgA1 or IgA2 using the immunoperoxidase technique, and the number of cells in the bronchi stained for these proteins was counted. The total number of IgA positive cells was increased in bronchitic and bronchiectatic lungs compared with those from control subjects. The number of IgA2 positive cells was similar in those with bronchitis and bronchiectasis and significantly higher than in controls. Similarly, cells containing IgA1 were increased in the lungs of subjects with chest disease but were higher in those with bronchitis than in those with bronchiectasis. The proportion of IgA2:total IgA containing cells was similar in sections from controls (mean (SD) 25 (5.0)%) and those with bronchiectasis (mean (SD) 24 (4)%), but lower in those with bronchitis (mean (SD) 19 (5.0)%). The results show that cells containing IgA1 predominate in the major bronchi but that the proportion of cells containing IgA2 is higher than in non-mucosal lymphoid tissues. Bronchitis and bronchiectasis are associated with greater numbers of cells producing IgA in the bronchi, and this is consistent with increased local production of IgA in the lung secretions of bronchitic subjects.
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