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Accumulation of effector memory CD8+ T cells in nasal polyps

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T lymphocytes are prevalent in sinus mucosa and are implicated in chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) pathogenesis. However, the major T-cell subpopulations, helper (CD4+) and cytotoxic (CD8+), have not been adequately examined in CRS. This study was designed to characterize human sinus mucosa and peripheral blood (PB) CD4+ and CD8+ T cells and their level of differentiation in CRS with nasal polyps (NPs), CRS without NPs, and control patients.


A prospective study was performed. Percentages of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells and their levels of differentiation were analyzed in sinus mucosa and PB by flow cytometry. Cell populations were defined as naive, central memory, effector memory, and effector T cells using cell surface markers CD45RA, CD62L, and CD27. The influence of coexisting allergy, sinus eosinophilic mucus (EM), and culture results were examined.


In all patients, sinus mucosa had a lower percentage of CD4+ and a higher percentage of CD8+ T cells compared with PB. However, CRS with NPs (n = 86) had a significantly higher percentage of mucosal CD8+ T cells compared with CRS without NPs (n = 40) in control (n = 13) patients (p < 0.0001). Effector memory T cells were increased in sinuses compared with PB in all patients; however, the percentage of effector memory CD8+ T cells was greatest in CRS with NP mucosa (p = 0.002). Surprisingly coexisting allergy or culture results did not influence the mucosal T-cell phenotype. CRS with NP patients with sinus EM had a significantly higher percentage of mucosal CD8+ T cells.


Sinus mucosa in CRS with NPs is characterized by a significant enrichment of CD8+ T cells and a relative deficiency of CD4+ T cells. The majority of NP CD8+ T cells had a terminally differentiated, mature, effector memory phenotype, which raises the question, whether these cells are pathogenic or appear as a consequence of inflammation, independent of the presence of allergy or positive microbial culture.
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Keywords: Chronic rhinosinusitis; T cells; cytotoxic; effector memory; eosinophilic; human; lymphocytes; mucosa; nasal polyp; prospective; sinus; sinusitis; tissue

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, University of Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Publication date: 2013-09-01

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