Background Nasal administration of major peptide T cell epitopes gives contradictory data on the induction of peripheral tolerance.
Objective To compare the prophylactic effect of intranasal treatment (INT) on the development of an allergic response, using either ovalbumin (OVA) or its major T cell epitope OVA 323–339 (OVAp).
Methods BALB/c mice were treated intranasally with OVA or OVAp and subsequently immunized s.c. with OVA. Anti-OVA-specific antibody, T cell proliferation and cytokine responses were analysed. In an adoptive transfer model using OVAp specific TCR transgenic (Tg) T cells from D011.10 mice, in vivo tracking and characterization of transferred T cells in the cervical, inguinal and bronchial lymph nodes (BLN) and in the spleen were determined by FACS analysis.
Results Prophylactic INT with OVA induced T cell tolerance towards subsequent OVA s.c. immunizations, inhibiting OVA specific T cell proliferation, IgE and IgG1 production, in contrast to INT with OVAp, which was unable to induce tolerance. In vivo analysis of transferred OVA-specific TCR Tg T cells showed that INT with OVA induced a preferential activation of T cells in BLN, as opposed to a broad, systemic activation with OVAp. In vivo, OVAp INT led to faster and more sustained cell division cycles than OVA INT. Ex vivo, tolerance to OVA was associated with the generation of IL-10 secreting CD4+ T cells in BLN of OVA-treated mice only.
Conclusion INT with OVA but not with OVAp led to regional (as opposed to systemic) T cell activation and the induction of IL-10 secreting CD4+ T cells in BLN, potentially critical steps in the induction of T cell-specific tolerance via the nasal route.