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Blood. 2002 Mar 15;99(6):2214-20.

Human eosinophils produce neurotrophins and secrete nerve growth factor on immunologic stimuli.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, 200 First Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.


Neurotrophins, such as nerve growth factor (NGF) and neurotrophin-3 (NT-3), are essential for development, function, and survival of peripheral sympathetic and sensory neurons. Most eosinophilic leukocytes in the human body are localized in mucosal tissues; however, the roles of eosinophils in human diseases are not fully understood. We found that human eosinophils constitutively express messenger RNA for NGF and NT-3, synthesize and store these proteins intracellularly, and continuously replenish them. Incubation of eosinophils with a transcription inhibitor, actinomycin D, for 8 hours completely depletes intracellular NGF and NT-3. New synthesis of NGF is enhanced by Fc-receptor-mediated stimuli, such as immunoglobulin (Ig)A and IgG immune complexes; in contrast, production of NT-3 is not affected by these stimuli. Notably, supernatants of eosinophils stimulated with IgA immune complex and interleukin 5 promote neurite extension of the PC-12 pheochromocytoma cell line; this effect is abolished by pretreatment of the supernatants with anti-NGF-neutralizing antibody. By enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, substantial amounts of NGF protein are also detected in the supernatants of stimulated eosinophils. Furthermore, in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis, the concentrations of NGF in nasal secretions correlate with the magnitudes of eosinophilic inflammation in the airway, suggesting a potential clinical implication of eosinophil NGF. Our observations propose a new pathologic mechanism by which eosinophils may contribute to enhanced neurologic responses in patients with allergic diseases and other eosinophilic disorders. Alternatively, eosinophils may play important roles in maintenance and restoration of homeostatic functions of mucosal tissues through the pleitropic activities of NGF.

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