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J Immunol. 2005 Jan 15;174(2):1063-72.

Mast cells, basophils, and eosinophils acquire constitutive IL-4 and IL-13 transcripts during lineage differentiation that are sufficient for rapid cytokine production.

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  • 1Institute of Clinical Microbiology, Immunology, and Hygiene University of Erlangen-Nurnberg, Erlangen, Germany.


Mast cells, basophils, and eosinophils are myeloid cells that are distinguished by their capability to produce IL-4 and IL-13. However, it is not clear how this potential is related to the lineage differentiation of these subsets. In the present study we used bicistronic IL-4 reporter (4get) mice to directly visualize IL-4 expression by nonlymphoid cells in vitro and in vivo at the single-cell level. Our data show that frequent expression of both Il4 alleles is initiated and maintained during ontogeny by an IL-4Ralpha- or Stat6-independent mechanism. Despite the constitutive presence of cytokine transcripts in differentiated cells under steady state conditions, cytokine production is not detectable in the absence of stimulation. Moreover, mature mast cells, basophils, and eosinophils also constitutively express IL-13. Both preformed IL-4 and IL-13 mRNAs are sufficient for rapid cytokine production upon stimulation. Our data show that mast cells, basophils, and eosinophils are programmed for IL-4 and IL-13 expression early in ontogeny. These novel findings have important implications for the prevention and therapeutic intervention of allergic and asthmatic diseases.

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