Epigenetic inheritance of fetal genes in allergic asthma


Prof. Jean Bousquet
Clinique des Maladies Respiratoires
Hôpital Arnaud de Villeneuve
Centre Hospitalier Universitaire
34295 Montpellier
Cedex 5


Asthma has been associated with an exaggerated T-helper type 2 (Th2) over Th1 responses to allergic and nonallergic stimuli, which leads to chronic airway inflammation and airway remodeling. In the present article, we propose that many of the genes involved in IgE synthesis and airways (re)modeling in asthma are persistent or reminiscent fetal genes which may not be silenced during early infancy (or late pregnancy). Genes of the embryologic differentiation of ectodermic and endodermic tissues may explain some of the patterns of airway remodeling in asthma. In utero programming leads to gene expression, the persistence of which may be associated with epigenetic inheritance phenomena induced by nonspecific environmental factors. Clear delineation of these issues may yield new information on the mechanisms of asthma and new targets for therapeutic intervention and primary prevention.