Background The contribution of IL-9 to human atopy is supported by genetic studies. However, IL-9 production in response to allergen in vitro has been reported only in children.
Objective Study IL-9 induction by allergen in adults, compare it with IL-5 and IL-13 and evaluate its association with atopy.
Methods Peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) from control adults and from atopic patients were cultured with various allergens or phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) and secreted IL-5, IL-9 and IL-13 were measured by ELISA.
Results IL-9 was produced in response to Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus (Der p) by PBMC from Der p-hypersensitive adults at levels equivalent to those induced by PHA but with slower kinetics. The induction of IL-9 was allergen specific, reflecting donor RAST profile. In Der p-triggered reactions of non-atopic and atopic subjects, IL-9 showed the highest selectivity for atopics, IL-5 and IL-13 being produced more frequently in non-atopic donors. Significant correlations with specific IgE titres were found for IL-9 with all allergens tested (Der p and two peptides of Bet v 1 birch allergen). For IL-5 and IL-13, they were in the same range for Der p but more variable for birch allergens. Patterns of cytokine production by individual patients in response to allergen reflected these differences: for Der p, IL-5, IL-9 and IL-13 productions were strongly correlated but for birch IL-5 differed from the latter two. The in vitro production of IL-9 reflected clinical hypersensitivity profiles and was higher in individuals with asthma than in those with disease limited to rhinitis and/or conjunctivitis.
Conclusions Allergen-triggered IL-9 production in vitro is an excellent marker for atopy in adults given its virtual absence in allergen-stimulated PBMC from non-atopic individuals and its correlation with allergen-specific IgE and asthma.