Background The majority of house dust mite proteins are non-allergenic. There is, however, no information on the type of immune responses produced to these proteins and if the responses are affected by allergic sensitization.
Objective To identify and produce a non-allergenic antigen of the house dust mite and compare antibody and T cell responses with the responses to allergens in sensitized and non-sensitized individuals.
Results Ferritin heavy chain was cloned from a cDNA library as a candidate non-allergen of the house dust mite. It bound IgG but not IgE in the sera of allergic and non-allergic subjects and induced high T cell proliferative responses that correlated highly with the responses to the major allergen Der p 2. The cytokine response to the non-allergen was characterized by the release of high levels of both Th1 and Th2 cytokines from the PBMC of both allergic and non-allergic subjects. In contrast, the response to Der p 2 showed the expected high level of Th2 cytokine release from the PBMC of allergic subjects, while the Th2 cytokine production from PBMC of non-allergic subjects was low and even lower than that induced by ferritin heavy chain. The levels of IFN-γ release were similar for all groups. Der p 2 induced significantly more IL-10 than ferritin in the non-allergic group.
Conclusion The T cell responses to a non-allergenic protein of the house dust mite were high and strongly correlated with the response to the major allergen. The non-allergenic protein induced high levels of Th1 and Th2 cytokine in both allergic and non-allergic subjects, while the allergen induced high levels of Th2 cytokine in allergic subjects and low levels in non-allergic subjects. The responses to the allergen were thus independently up- and down-regulated with no evidence of bystander regulation.