Background: CD14 is a most important monocyte surface molecule. Recently, it has been reported that there is an important relationship between CD14 and immunoglobulin E, and that regulation of CD14 expression is an effector mechanism mediating apoptosis of monocytes.
Objective: The present study was designed to determine whether specific allergens were able to modulate CD14 expression and apoptosis by monocytes from allergic patients or whether specific immunotherapy (IT) might affect these processes.
Methods: One group of adult allergic asthmatic patients had received IT for the previous 3 years. Another similar group was not treated with IT. We challenged peripheral blood monocytes from both groups of asthmatic patients in vitro with the specific allergen that produced clinical symptoms in asthmatic patients. The cells were also challenged with allergen to which the patients were not sensitive. Monocytes from normal subjects were also challenged with allergens. Expression of CD14 on the monocyte surface was analyzed by flow cytometry, and soluble CD14 (sCD14) in culture supernatant by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The three groups of subjects were challenged with allergens, and apoptosis was analyzed by flow cytometry.
Results: When monocytes from non-IT-treated asthmatic patients were cultivated with the allergens to which the patients were sensitive, a significant up-regulation on the monocyte surface was observed compared with results from the healthy group (P < 0.003) and from the IT asthmatic group (P < 0.003). A significantly higher sCD14 level was observed in the culture supernatant of the monocytes from the IT asthmatic group were observed compared with those from the healthy group (P < 0.001) and those from the non-IT asthmatic group (P < 0.001). A significantly higher apoptosis level was observed in monocytes from the IT asthmatic group compared with those from the healthy group (P < 0.001) and those from the non-IT asthmatic group (<0.001).
Conclusions: We present evidence that the expression of CD14 on the surface of monocytes and the apoptosis of the same cells can be modulated by an allergen-dependent mechanism. These processes can be affected by IT.