Kinetics and functional implications of Th1 and Th2 cytokine production following activation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells in primary culture



The importance of cytokine production in some disease processes is now widely recognized. To investigate temporal relationships between cytokines, we stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) in vitro using the T cell mitogen phytohemagglutinin (PHA) and various antigens chosen to induce predominantly Th1 (streptokinase: streptodornase or purified protein derivative) or Th2 (Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus, bee or wasp venom: allergens in sensitive subjects) responses. Cytokine production was measured by sensitive bioassays or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. Of the 30 subjects studied, 10 were normal and 20 individuals were allergic to either D. pteronyssinus (n = 10) or bee venom (n = 10) (examined before specific allergen immunotherapy). We examined the temporal profiles of a panel of cytokines produced in prmary culture. In PHA-driven cultures, cytokines were found to be sequentially produced in the order interleukin (IL)-2, IL-4, IL-5, IL-3, interferon (IFN)-γ, IL-10, IL-6, IL-12 and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α. The response to allergen in allergic patients was predominantly Th2 in nature, with the production of IL-4, IL-5, IL-6 and IL-10, but little or no IFN-γ. IL-2, IL-3, TNF-α and IL-12 were also produced in low amounts. The response of both atopic and normal subjects to recall bacterial antigens was predominantly Th1, with high levels of IFN-γ, IL-2 and TNF-α. The relevance of the order, amount and speed of production, characteristic kinetics (production, consumption, homeostatic regulation) and the cell source of the cytokines are discussed.