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Clin Exp Immunol. 1996 Jan;103(1):111-8.

Differential spontaneous expression of mRNA for IL-4, IL-10, IL-13, IL-2 and interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from atopic patients.

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Laboratoire d'Immunologie et d'Hématologie, Université de Reims, France.


Distinct cytokine-producing T cell subsets are well known to play a major role in IgE production and to be differentially regulated in allergic patients, although the characterization of the type 1/type 2 cytokine pattern in PBMC during allergic responses remains to be clearly defined. The aim of this study was to determine whether different cytokine profiles are observed directly in PBMC of atopic donors. We attempted to study several cytokines (IL-2, IFN-gamma, IL-4, IL-10 and IL-13) using not only ELISA but also polymerase chain reaction (PCR) techniques, because the frequency of cytokine-producing cells in peripheral blood is very low. All the patients were selected during their acute symptomatologic phase. Data showed a significantly higher production of IL-4 (P = 0.05) and IL-10 (P < 0.005) as determined by ELISA in phytohaemagglutinin (PHA)/phorbol myristate acetate (PMA)-stimulated mononuclear cells of atopic donors compared with controls, although spontaneous IL-4 production without stimulation was never detected within either atopic or control groups. The reverse-transcriptase (RT)-PCR technique appeared to be advantageous in that it allowed the detection of the spontaneous expression of cytokine mRNA in cells without stimulation. We found a clear expression of IL-4 mRNA spontaneously in all atopic patients, whereas normal donors in most cases did not show specific signals (P < 0.0001). Less differences between atopic subjects and controls were found in IL-10 mRNA expression. Although the technique of RT-PCR amplification used in this study is semiquantitative, a reproducible and significant (P < 0.001) enhancement of IL-10 mRNA expression was observed in atopic donors. A heterogeneous expression of IL-13 mRNA was observed in individuals from the two groups studied, although mean levels in atopic donors were slightly enhanced compared with controls (P = 0.02). Furthermore, we did not observe any alteration in the expression of the type 1-derived cytokines such as IFN-gamma and IL-2. In addition, we showed a lack of correlation between the expression of serum IgE (total or specific) and spontaneous IL-4 mRNA expression. This study showed a tendency of PBMC from atopic donors to express a type 2-like cytokine pattern, with IL-4 as the most discriminatory cytokine. Additionally, as the level of serum IgE has a low predictive value in allergic disease, and as the elevated expression of IL-4 that we found was not correlated with serum IgE, we could strongly suggest that the measurement of IL-4 in blood mononuclear cells may be of great value in the analysis of allergic responses in atopic donors.

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