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Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2004 Jan;133(1):1-13. Epub 2003 Nov 28.

High dose allergen stimulation of T cells from house dust mite-allergic subjects induces expansion of IFN-gamma+ T Cells, apoptosis of CD4+IL-4+ T cells and T cell anergy.

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  • 1Department of Pathology and Immunology, Monash University, Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, Vic, Australia.



During clinically effective allergen-specific immunotherapy a shift in cytokine dominance from IL-4, IL-5 predominant to IFN-gamma predominant has been observed. As antigen concentration influences Th cell priming, this study aimed to determine the effect of different allergen concentrations on human house dust mite (HDM)-specific T cell production of IL-4 and IFN-gamma, proliferation and apoptosis.


HDM-allergic donor PBMC were cultured for 14 days with different concentrations of HDM extract (1, 10 and 100 microg/ml). T cell intracellular IL-4 and IFN-gamma, division (CFSE labelling) and apoptosis (active caspase-3 staining) were analysed by flow cytometry. Proliferation was assessed by (3)H-thymidine incorporation.


Increased CD4+IFN-gamma+ and CD8+IFN-gamma+ T cell numbers were observed in high allergen concentration cultures compared with low concentration cultures whereas there were no differences in CD4+IL-4+ and CD8+IL-4+ T cell numbers. CFSE cell labelling revealed that high allergen concentration favours the expansion of IFN-gamma-producing CD4+ T cells. The proportion of apoptotic cells increased with allergen concentration and there was preferential apoptosis of CD4+IL-4+ T cells. HDM-induced proliferation was decreased in high allergen concentration cultures; this was reversible by IL-2 consistent with anergy.


These results show that T cell division and apoptosis contribute to the cytokine skewing to predominant IFN-gamma production by T cells observed at high allergen concentration. Thus the use of hypoallergenic T cell reactive preparations which can be given safely at higher doses than natural extracts may enhance efficacy of allergen-specific immunotherapy.

Copyright 2004 S. Karger AG, Basel

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