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Immunotechnology. 1998 Jan;3(4):233-44.

The TH1/TH2 paradigm in allergy.

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Clinical Immunology Dept., University of Firenze, Italy.


Recent evidence has been accumulated to suggest that allergen-reactive type 2 helper T cells (Th2) play a triggering role in the activation and/or recruitment of IgE antibody-producing B cells, mast cells and eosinophils, i.e. the cellular triad involved in the allergic inflammation. Interleukin (IL)-4 production by a still unknown cell type (T cell subset, mast cell/basophil?) at the time of antigen presentation to the Th cell is critical for the development of Th2 cells. Other cytokines, such as IL-1 and IL-10, and hormones, such as calcitriol and progesterone, also play a favoring role. In contrast, cytokines such as interferon (IFN-alpha, IFN-gamma, IL-12 and transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta, and hormones, play a negative regulatory role on the development of Th2 cells. However, the mechanisms underlying the preferential activation by environmental allergens of Th2 cells in atopic individuals still remain obscure. Some gene products selectively expressed in Th2 cells or selectively controlling the expression of IL-4 have recently been described. Moreover, cytokines and other gene products that dampen the production of IL-4, as well as the development and/or the function of Th2 cells, have been identified. These findings allow us to suggest that the up-regulation of genes controlling IL-4 expression and/or abnormalities of regulatory mechanisms of Th2 development and/or function may be responsible for Th2 responses against common environmental allergens in atopic people. The new insights in the pathophysiology of T cell responses in atopic diseases provide exciting opportunities for the development of novel immunotherapeutic strategies. They include the induction of nonresponsiveness in allergen-specific Th2 cells by allergen peptides or redirection of allergen-specific Th2 responses by Th1-inducing cytokines, altered peptide ligands, allergens incorporated into recombinant microorganisms or bound to appropriate adjuvants, and plasmid DNA vaccination. In severe atopic patients, the possibility of nonallergen-specific immunotherapeutic regimens designed to target Th2 cells or Th2-dependent effector molecules, such as specific IL-4 transcription factors, IL-4, IL-5 and IgE, may also be suggested.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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