Alteration of innate immune cells in the lungs can promote loss of peripheral tolerance that leads to autoimmune responses in cigarette smokers. Development of autoimmunity in smokers with emphysema is also strongly linked to the expansion of autoreactive T helper (Th) cells expressing interferon γ (Th1), and interleukin 17A (Th17). However, the mechanisms responsible for enhanced self-recognition and reduced immune tolerance in smokers with emphysema remain less clear. Here we show that C1q, a component of the complement protein 1 complex (C1), is downregulated in lung CD1a+ antigen-presenting cells (APCs) isolated from emphysematous human and mouse lung APCs after chronic cigarette smoke exposure. C1q potentiated the function of APCs to differentiate CD4+ T cells to regulatory T cells (Tregs), while it inhibited Th17 cell induction and proliferation. Mice deficient in C1q that were exposed to chronic smoke exhibited exaggerated lung inflammation marked by increased Th17 cells, whereas reconstitution of C1q in the lungs enhanced Treg abundance, dampened smoke-induced lung inflammation, and prevented the development of emphysema. Our findings demonstrate that cigarette smoke–mediated loss of C1q could play a key role in reduced peripheral tolerance, which could be explored to treat emphysema.


Xiaoyi Yuan, Cheng-Yen Chang, Ran You, Ming Shan, Bon Hee Gu, Matthew C. Madison, Gretchen Diehl, Sarah Perusich, Li-Zhen Song, Lorraine Cornwell, Roger D. Rossen, Rick Wetsel, Rajapakshe Kimal, Cristian Coarfa, Holger K. Eltzschig, David B. Corry, Farrah Kheradmand


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