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J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2007 Feb;119(2):280-94; quiz 295-6.

T-cell responses to allergens.

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Asthma and Allergic Diseases Center, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA 22908-1355, USA. <>


The allergic response in human beings is engineered by CD4(+) T lymphocytes, which secrete T(H)2 cytokines in response to activation by allergen-derived peptides. Although T(H)2 cells have been well characterized, defining the properties of allergen-specific T cells has proved challenging in human beings because of their low frequency within the T-cell repertoire. However, recent studies have provided insight into the molecular signature of long-lived human memory T(H)2 cells, which are allergen-specific. T-cell responses directed against allergens develop in early life and are heavily influenced by the type and dose of allergen, and possibly coexposure to microbial products. These responses are susceptible to suppression by regulatory T cells. This article highlights recent advances in the characterization of allergen-specific memory T(H)2 cells and discusses the heterogeneous nature of regulatory T cells and possible mechanisms of action. The relevance of T-cell epitope mapping studies to understanding the unique nature of T-cell responses to different allergens, as well as to peptide vaccine development, is reviewed. Experimental techniques and approaches for analyzing allergen-specific T cells and identifying novel T-cell epitopes are described that may lead to new T-cell-based therapies.

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