In view of increasing evidence suggesting an active immunoregulatory role of the skin keratinocytes and the observation that the differentiation of allergen specific T lymphocytes is critical in the development of allergy, we evaluated epidermal expression of HLA-DR antigen in skin reactions induced with an atopen (house dust mite) and with an non-atopic antigen (Hemocyanin). Two groups of patients with house dust mite (Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus [Der p]) allergy were compared, one group was skin tested with Der p, the other group was immunized and subsequently skin tested with Helix pomatia Hemocyanin (HPH), Biopsy specimens taken at 48 h after the HPH (n= 11) and Der p (n= 11) tests were analysed immunohistologically. Reactions in both groups were comparable in size. Immunohistological analysis showed domination by CD4 + lymphocytes. Expression of HLA-DR antigen by epidermal keratinocytes was observed in six out of 11 of the HPH induced reactions, but in none of the Der p induced reactions. Eosinophils were spotted only throughout the Der p induced reactions, showing a good correlation with the number of CD4 positive lymphocytes. The lack of HLA-DR expression by keratinocytes during the allergen-induced reaction, compared with the Hemocyanin induced reaction can be the result of a difference in cytokine profile of the lymphocytes dominating the dermal infiltrate. On the other hand evidence exists that defective HLA-DR expression by keratinocytes enhances antigen induced lymphocyte activation, and may thus contribute to the development of allergen-specific T-lymphocytes.
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