Background: Atopic children show increased expression and production of the Th2-associated cytokines IL-4, IL-5, IL-13, and IL-9 from PBMCs after stimulation with allergen, but it has previously not been clearly determined whether the Th2-cytokine production is restricted to the inhalant allergen the child is sensitized to, and whether perennial or seasonal allergens induce different cytokine responses. Our purpose was to determine whether in vitro Th2 cytokine production is specific to the sensitizing allergen, and to compare the cytokine responses to a perennial and a seasonal allergen in monosensitized and polysensitized children.
Methods: Using semiquantitative RT-PCR, we analyzed the expression of the cytokines IL-4, IL-5, IL-13, IL-9, IL-10, and IFN-γ after stimulation of PBMCs with house-dust-mite (HDM) or ryegrass allergen. The cells were sampled from groups of 6-year-old children sensitized to either HDM (n=20) or ryegrass (n=24), or to both allergens (n=20), as well as from a nonatopic group (n=20).
Results: After stimulation with HDM allergen, PBMCs from children sensitized only to HDM expressed increased mRNA levels of the Th2 cytokines, but not of IL-10 and IFN-γ, whereas ryegrass stimulation did not result in increased cytokine expression. PBMCs from children sensitized to HDM and ryegrass expressed increased Th2 cytokines after stimulation with either of the two allergens. In contrast, PBMCs from children sensitized only to ryegrass did not express increased levels after stimulation with either of the allergens.
Conclusions: The expression of Th2 cytokines after in vitro stimulation of PBMCs from atopic children is specific to the sensitizing allergen, indicating that atopic status per se does not affect the type of T-cell response. In addition, T cells specific to seasonal allergens circulate in the blood out of season only if the child is concomitantly sensitized to a perennial allergen.