Cellular infiltration and cytokine mRNA expression in perennial allergic rhinitis


Dr S. R. Durham, Upper Respiratory Medicine, Imperial College School of Medicine at National Heart and Lung Institute, Dovehouse Street, London, SW3 6LY, UK


Background: Allergen challenge in allergic rhinitis patients leads to local eosinophilia and Th2-type cytokine expression. Natural exposure to grass pollen is additionally characterized by epithelial mast-cell infiltration. We hypothesized that perennial allergic rhinitis is also associated with T-cell and eosinophil infiltration of the nasal mucosa, local Th2-type cytokine expression, and increased numbers of nasal epithelial mast cells.

Methods: Nasal biopsies from perennial allergic rhinitis patients and controls were analysed by immunocytochemistry for different cell populations and in situ hybridization for cytokine mRNA-expressing cells.

Results: Perennial allergic rhinitis was associated with increased numbers of submucosal CD3+ T cells (P=0.05), EG2+ activated eosinophils (P=0.01), and CD68+ macrophages (P=0.01) compared to controls. Epithelial, but not submucosal, tryptase-positive mast cells were also elevated in rhinitics compared to controls (P=0.01). The numbers of cells expressing interleukin (IL)-5 were higher (P=0.01) and the numbers of cells expressing IL-2 were lower (P=0.04) in rhinitic patients than controls. There were no significant differences for either IL-4 or interferon-gamma between the groups.

Conclusions: Perennial allergic rhinitis is characterized by mast-cell migration into the epithelium; submucosal infiltration by T cells, eosinophils, and macrophages; and an imbalance in local T-cell cytokine production in favour of enhanced IL-5 and reduced IL-2 expression.