Impaired secretion of interleukin-4 and interleukin-13 by allergen-specific T cells correlates with defective nuclear expression of NF-AT2 and jun B: relevance to immunotherapy


Alexander Faith, Department of Respiratory Medicine and Allergy, 5th Floor, Thomas Guy House, The Guy's, King's College and St Thomas' School of Medicine, St Thomas Street, London SE1 9RT, UK. E-mail:


Background Allergen immunotherapy (IT) is a successful treatment associated with decreased Th2 cytokine production by allergen-specific T cells. We have previously demonstrated (Faith et al., J Immunol 1997; 159:53–57) that inhibition of Th2 cytokine production in vitro correlates with impaired tyrosine kinase activity through the TCR. The transcription factor complex, nuclear factor of activated T cells (NF-AT), which regulates Th2 cytokine production is controlled by the activity of tyrosine kinases.

Objective To address whether decreased Th2 cytokine production by allergen-specific CD4+ T cells following IT is correlated with altered translocation and nuclear expression of the NF-AT family member, NF-AT2, and the activator protein 1 (AP1) component of NF-AT, jun B.

Methods T cell lines specific for insect venom phospholipase A2 (PLA) were derived from patients prior to and during conventional venom IT. Nuclear expressions of NF-AT and jun B were assessed following stimulation through the TCR. Th1 and Th2 cytokine and IL-10 production by insect venom-specific T cells were also determined. Results were compared with a well-established model system in which anergy was induced in cloned, allergen-specific Th2 cells.

Results Impaired translocation and decreased expression of NF-AT2 and jun B were detected in PLA-specific T cell lines derived from bee venom-allergic individuals following 16 weeks treatment compared to pre-treatment. These results correlated with significantly reduced production of IL-4 and IL-13 and significantly increased production of IFN-γ and IL-10 by PLA-specific T cells. Impaired IL-4 and IL-13 production also correlated with defective nuclear expression of NF-AT2/jun B in cloned, anergic allergen-specific Th2 cells.

Conclusion These results suggested that optimal production of IL-4 and IL-13 by allergen-specific T cells is dependent on the nuclear expression of NF-AT2 and jun B. Thus, specific inhibition of NF-AT2/jun B might be an option in novel and improved forms of allergen IT.