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Clin Exp Immunol. Oct 1994; 98(1): 151–157.
PMCID: PMC1534172

Different growth factor requirements for human Th2 cells may reflect in vivo induced anergy.


We previously reported the isolation of allergen-specific Th2 lines and clones from atopy patch test (APT) sites of atopic dermatitis (AD) patients. Upon stimulation with allergen or anti-CD3+ phorbol myristate acetate (PMA) IL-4 was released with or without IL-5, while no (or extremely low concentrations of) IL-2 and interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) were detectable. A high IL-4/IFN-gamma ratio facilitates production of allergen-specific IgE, of which high levels are observed in AD patients. Here we show that the above mentioned Th2 cells are notably different from murine Th2 cells. Not IL-4, which is the autocrine acting growth factor for murine Th2 cells, but IL-2 was needed for proliferation of these human APT-derived Th2 lines and clones. Of significance, unless exogenous IL-2 was added, no proliferative response to allergen, presented by Epstein-Barr virus-transformed B (EBV-B) cells, non-T cells or IgE-bearing Langerhans cells (LC), occurred. Lack of proliferation and IL-2 production after full T cell receptor (TCR) triggering is a characteristic first described for in vitro anergized T cells. However, like the clones we describe in this study, anergic T cells may retain production of cytokines other than IL-2. A further resemblance between anergic T cells and the human Th2 clones reported here is that IL-4 can enhance IL-2-driven proliferation, but is not capable of inducing T cell growth by itself. The absence of IL-4-driven proliferation differentiates human Th2 cells from murine Th2 cells. Both produce IL-4 when stimulated in a cognate fashion, but only murine Th2 cells will proliferate. We conclude that the presently reported human Th2 cells are different from murine Th2 cells, in that they need other T cells to produce IL-2 required for their expansion. Moreover, the Th2 cells phenotypically resemble anergic T cells. As yet, however, we have no clue as to whether these features account for the current Th2 cells only or for human Th2 cells in general. We hypothesize that the Th2 phenotype of AD skin-derived, allergen-specific T cells may be induced in vivo by LC, which lack CD80, and therefore do not provide secondary signals through CD28-CD80 interaction.

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