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Transgenic mice expressing the T cell antigen receptor specific for an immunodominant epitope of a major allergen of house dust mite develop an asthmatic phenotype on exposure of the airways to allergen


Elizabeth R. Jarman, MLW Program Clinical Tropical Research, Wellcome Trust Research Laboratories, Malawi-Liverpool, PO Box 30096, Blantyre, Malawi.


Background Current studies on mechanisms underlying allergen-induced pulmonary inflammation and asthma are hampered by the lack of appropriate physiological in vivo models that reflect the natural route of allergen exposure and sensitization.

Objective To generate and phenotype a transgenic mouse strain expressing the T cell receptor (TCR) specific for an immunodominant domain of the major inhalant allergen Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus species of house dust mite (Der p 1), for the development of an in vivo model of allergic asthma.

Methods Der p 1 transgenic mice were generated using TCR-αβ derived from a CD4+ T cell hybridoma reactive with Der p 1 residues p 110–131. The frequency and functional activity of peripheral T cells were determined and parameters of airway inflammation assessed following allergen challenge of the airways with Der p 1.

Results CD4+ T cells are functionally active, exhibiting dose-dependent proliferation and IL-4 production on primary stimulation with Der p 1 or Der p 1, p 110–131 in vitro, independent of in vivo antigen priming. On sensitization of the airways with allergen, in the absence of systemic priming or the application of adjuvants, the TCR transgenic mice develop airway inflammation characterized by a marked lymphocytic and eosinophilic infiltrate with goblet cell hyperplasia and enhanced mucin production.

Conclusion The Der p 1 TCR transgenic mice provide a model for investigating the pathophysiological mechanisms of pulmonary inflammation following sensitization by exposure of the airways to allergen and for investigating the mode of action and efficacy of novel immunotherapeutics.