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FASEB J. 2003 Jun;17(9):1026-35.

T helper (Th) 2 predominance in atopic diseases is due to preferential apoptosis of circulating memory/effector Th1 cells.

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  • 1Swiss Institute of Allergy and Asthma Research (SIAF), Obere Strasse 22, CH-7270 Davos, Switzerland.


T cells constitute a large population of cellular infiltrate in atopic/allergic inflammation and a dysregulated, Th2-biased peripheral immune response appears to be an important pathogenetic factor. In atopic dermatitis, circulating cutaneous lymphocyte-associated antigen-bearing (CLA+) CD45RO+ T cells with skin-specific homing property represent an activated memory/effector T cell subset. They express high levels of Fas and Fas ligand and undergo activation-induced apoptosis. The freshly purified CLA+ CD45RO+ T cells of atopic individuals display distinct features of in vivo-triggered apoptosis such as pro-caspase degradation and active caspase-8 formation. In particular, the Th1 compartment of activated memory/effector T cells selectively undergoes activation-induced cell death, skewing the immune response toward surviving Th2 cells in atopic dermatitis patients. The apoptosis of circulating memory/effector T cells was confined to atopic individuals whereas non-atopic patients such as psoriasis, intrinsic-type asthma, contact dermatitis, intrinsic type of atopic dermatitis, bee venom allergic patients, and healthy controls showed no evidence for enhanced T cell apoptosis in vivo. These results define a novel mechanism for peripheral Th2 response in atopic diseases.

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