Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways. Disease presentation varies greatly in terms of cause, development, severity, and response to medication, and thus the condition has been subdivided into a number of asthma phenotypes. There is still an unmet need for the identification of phenotype-specific markers and accompanying molecular tools that facilitate the classification of asthma phenotype. To this end, we utilised a range of molecular tools to characterise a well-defined group of female adults with poorly controlled atopic asthma associated with house dust mite (HDM) allergy, relative to non-asthmatic control subjects. Circulating messenger RNA (mRNA) and microRNA (miRNA) were sequenced and quantified, and a differential expression analysis of the two RNA populations performed to determine how gene expression and regulation varied in the disease state. Further, a number of circulating proteins (IL-4, 5, 10, 13, 17 A, Eotaxin, GM-CSF, IFNy, MCP-1, TARC, TNFα, Total IgE, and Endotoxin) were quantified to determine whether the protein profiles differed significantly dependent on disease state. Finally, we utilised a previously published assessment of the circulating “blood microbiome” performed using 16S rRNA amplification and sequencing. Asthmatic subjects displayed a range of significant alterations to circulating gene expression and regulation, relative to healthy control subjects, that may influence systemic immune activity. Notably, several circulating mRNAs were detected in just the asthma group or just in the control group, and many more were observed to be expressed at significantly different levels in the asthma group compared to the control group. Proteomic analysis revealed increased levels of inflammatory proteins within the serum, and decreased levels of the bacterial endotoxin protein in the asthmatic state. Comparison of blood microbiome composition revealed a significant increase in the Firmicutes phylum with asthma that was associated with a concomitant reduction in the Proteobacteria phylum. This study provides a valuable insight into the systemic changes evident in the HDM-associated asthma, identifies a range of molecules that are present in the circulation in a condition-specific manner (with clear biomarker potential), and highlights a range of hypotheses for further study.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was part funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit (NIHR HPRU) in Health Impact of Environmental Hazards at King’s College London in partnership with Public Health England. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR, the Department of Health or Public Health England.