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J Immunol. 1999 Dec 1;163(11):5946-53.

Phosphorothioate oligodeoxynucleotides promote the in vitro development of human allergen-specific CD4+ T cells into Th1 effectors.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Immunoallergology and Respiratory Disease Unit, University of Florence, Florence, Italy.


DNA vaccination is an effective approach in inducing the switch of murine immune responses from a Th2 to a Th1 profile of cytokine production that has been related to the activity of unmethylated CpG motifs present in bacterial, but not mammalian, DNA. We report here that some synthetic phosphorothioate, but not phosphodiester, oligodeoxynucleotides (ODNs) were able to induce B cell proliferation and to shift the in vitro differentiation of Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus group 1-specific human CD4+ T cells from atopic donors into Th cell effectors showing a prevalent Th1, instead of Th2, cytokine profile. This latter effect was completely blocked by the neutralization of IL-12 and IFN (alpha and gamma) in bulk culture, suggesting that the Th1-inducing activity of phosphorothioate ODNs was mediated by their ability to stimulate the production of these cytokines by monocytes, dendritic, and NK cells. Cytosine methylation abolished the Th1-inducing activity of ODNs; however, CpG dinucleotide-containing ODNs exhibited the Th1-shifting effect independently of the presence or the absence of CpG motifs (5'-pur-pur-CpG-pyr-pyr-3'). Moreover, the inversion of CpG to GpC resulted only in a partial reduction of this activity, suggesting that the motif responsible for the Th1-skewing effect in humans is at least partially different from that previously defined in mice. These results support the concept that the injection of allergens mixed to, or conjugated with, appropriate ODNs may provide a novel allergen-specific immunotherapeutic regimen for the treatment of allergic disorders.

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