Altered β2-adrenergic regulation of T cell activity after allergen challenge in asthma


H. F. Kauffman, Department of Allergology, University Hospital Groningen, Hanzeplein 1, NL-9713 GZ, Groningen, The Netherlands. E-mail:


Background Airway inflammation in asthma is orchestrated by recruitment of T helper (Th)2 lymphocytes to the lung and subsequent production of Th2-like cytokines upon allergen challenge.

Objective To examine whether allergen-induced dysfunction of the β2-adrenergic receptor (β2-AR) contributes to the enhanced T(h2) cell activity in asthma.

Methods β2-adrenergic regulation of cytokine mRNA expression was studied in α-CD3/α-CD28-activated peripheral blood lymphocytes from seven asthma patients before and 6 h after allergen challenge, in conjunction with the effects of β2-agonist fenoterol on T cell chemotaxis and signalling pathways.

Results A complete loss of β2-AR control over expression of the Th2 cytokines IL-4, IL-5 and IL-13, but not of the Th1 cytokine IFN-γ, was observed after allergen challenge. Furthermore, we found impaired β2-AR regulation of T cell migration as well as signal transduction pathways, i.e. the phosphorylation of cyclic adenosine monophosphate-responsive element binding protein and the inhibition of the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway. The loss of β2-AR control was associated with increased β-adrenergic receptor kinase expression, which might be involved in β2-AR desensitization. In addition, we demonstrate for the first time that T cells exposed to the chemokine thymus and activation-regulated chemokine show hyporesponsiveness to fenoterol.

Conclusion Our results suggest that allergen-induced loss of β2-AR control, possibly mediated by chemokine release, plays an important role in enhanced Th2-like activity in asthma.