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Eur J Immunol. 2005 Oct;35(10):2793-802.

Alpha-galactosylceramide-induced iNKT cells suppress experimental allergic asthma in sensitized mice: role of IFN-gamma.

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Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique-Unité Mixte de Recherche 8147, Paris V, Hôpital Necker, Paris, France.


Allergic asthma is a multifaceted syndrome consisting of eosinophil-rich airway inflammation, bronchospasm, and airway hyper-responsiveness (AHR). Using a mouse model of allergic asthma, we previously reported that invariant NKT (iNKT) cells increase the severity of this disease. Herein, we demonstrate that a single i.v. injection of alpha-galactosylceramide (alpha-GalCer), 1 h before the first airway allergen challenge of OVA-sensitized mice, abrogates elicitation of AHR, airway eosinophilia, IL-4 and IL-5 production in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid, and specific anti-OVA IgE antibodies. Further, alpha-GalCer administered intranasally also strongly inhibited the major symptoms of asthma in sensitized and challenged mice. Alpha-GalCer treatment induces iNKT cell accumulation in the lungs, and shifts their cytokine profile from pro-asthmatic IL-4 to a protective IFN-gamma production. The role of IFN-gamma from iNKT cells in protection was shown by adoptive transfer of sorted iNKT cells from OVA-sensitized and alpha-GalCer-treated mice which protected immunized recipients from manifesting asthma by an IFN-gamma-dependent pathway. Our findings demonstrate for the first time that alpha-GalCer administered locally inhibits asthma symptoms, even in predisposed asthmatic mice, through an iNKT cell- and IFN-gamma-dependent pathway.

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