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J Immunol. 2009 Mar 1;182(5):3285-93. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0711996.

Th1/Th2 patterns and balance in cytokine production in the parents and infants of a large birth cohort.

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Department of Pharmacology, College of Medicine, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85724, USA.


Regulation of human immune cell cytokine production in vivo is not well understood due in part to limitations on imposing experimental conditions. We proposed that life-imposed conditions (pregnancy, birth, age, gender), combined with large sample size, repeat sampling, and family-based recruitment would serve to reveal peripheral blood cell-derived cytokine patterns reflective of in vivo regulation regarding Th1/Th2 balance and familial correlation. Mononuclear cells were obtained from 483 trios in the Tucson Infant Immune Study: from mothers pre- and postpartum, infants at birth and at 3 mo, and fathers. Con A/PMA-stimulated supernatants were assayed by ELISA for IFN-gamma, IL-4, IL-13, IL-5, and IL-10 and allergen-stimulated supernatants for IFN-gamma, IL-4, and IL-13. Mitogen-stimulated prepartum samples were not globally Th2 biased, differing from postpartum only by a modestly reduced IFN-gamma:IL-5 ratio. Prepartum samples actually produced less IL-10 and IL-13 although more IL-5 than paternal samples. Newborns were also not globally Th2 biased, with mitogen stimulation producing approximately 10-fold less IL-4, IL-5, and IFN-gamma than adults but only 2- to 3-fold less IL-13 and IL-10. Despite these group differences, all cytokines showed marked positive intraindividual correlations (all p < 0.001). Allergen stimulation gave results consistent with a lack of global Th2 bias. Mitogen stimulation revealed parent-child and parent-parent correlations. Thus, rather than a global Th2 bias, cytokine production in pregnant mothers and newborns appears regulated so as to maintain a relative balance among the cytokines, with the nature of the balance differing in mothers and infants and with production influenced by familial factors that include shared environment.

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