Immunomodulation of allergic immune response during specific immunotherapy
Nieminen, Kaisa (2009-06-27)
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Atopic, IgE-mediated allergies are one of the major public health problems in Finland and other Western countries. These diseases are characterized by type 2 T helper (Th2) cell predominated immune responses (interleukin-4 (IL-4), IL-5) against ubiquitous environmental allergens. Despite of adequate pharmacological treatment, more than 20% of the patients with allergic rhinitis develop asthma. Allergen specific immunotherapy (SIT) is the only treatment currently available to affect to the natural course of allergic diseases. This treatment involves repeated administration of allergens to the patients either via sublingual route (sublingual immunotherapy, SLIT) or by subcutaneous injections (subcutaneous immunotherapy, SCIT). Successful treatment with SCIT or SLIT has been shown to provide long-term remission in symptoms, and prevent disease progression to asthma, but the immunological mechanisms behind these beneficial effects are not yet completely understood. Increased knowledge of such mechanisms could not only help to improve SIT efficacy, but also provide tools to monitor the development of clinical response to SIT in individual patients, and possibly also, predict the ultimate therapeutic outcome. The aim of this work was to clarify the immunological mechanisms associated with SIT by investigating the specific allergen-induced immune responses in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) of allergic rhinitis patients during the course of SLIT and SCIT. The results of this work demonstrate that both therapies induced increases in the protective, Th2-balancing Th1 type immune responses in PBMC, e.g. by up-regulating signaling lymphocytic activation molecule (SLAM) and interferon gamma (IFN-γ) expression, and augmented tolerogenic T regulatory (Treg) cell type responses against the specific allergens, e.g. by increasing IL-10 or Forkhead box P3 (FOXP3) expression. The induction of allergen-specific Th1 and Treg type responses during SLIT were dependent on the treatment dose, favoring high allergen dose SLIT. During SCIT, the early decrease in Th2 type cytokine production - in particular of IL-4 mRNA and IL-4/IFN-γ expression ratio - was associated with the development of good therapeutic outcome. Conversely, increases in both Th2 (IL-5) and Th1 (IFN-γ, SLAM) type responses and IL-10 mRNA production were seen in the patients with less effective outcome. In addition, increase in Th17 type cytokine (IL-17) mRNA production was found in the PBMC of patients with less effective outcome during both SLIT and SCIT. These data strengthen the current hypothesis that immunomodulation of allergen-specific immune responses from the prevailing Th2-biased responses towards a more Th1 type, and induction of tolerogenic Treg cells producing IL-10 represent the two key mechanisms behind the beneficial effects of SIT. The data also give novel insight into the mechanisms why SIT may fail to be effective in some patients by demonstrating a positive correlation between the proinflammatory IL-17 responses, Th2 type IL-5 production and clinical symptoms. Taken together, these data indicate that the analysis of Th1, Th2, Treg ja Th17-associated immune markers such as IL-10, SLAM, IL-4, IL-5 and IL-17 could provide tools to monitor the development of clinical response to SIT, and thereby, predict the ultimate clinical outcome already in the early course of the treatment.
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