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Haemopoietic processes in allergic disease: eosinophil/basophil development


Dr Judah Denburg, HSC-3V46, McMaster University, 1200 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON, Canada L8N 3Z5. E-mail:


Haemopoietic myeloid progenitors contribute to the ongoing recruitment of pro-inflammatory cells, such as eosinophils and basophils (Eo/B), to target tissue sites in allergic diseases. It is apparent that the development of allergic inflammation is critically dependent on the ability of the bone marrow to support the proliferation, differentiation and mobilization of haemopoietic progenitors. The haemopoietic inductive microenvironment in the bone marrow is crucial for providing signals necessary for maintenance of progenitor populations at varying stages of lineage commitment and permitting these cells to circulate in the bloodstream. Progenitors demonstrate responsiveness to specific cytokines, which varies with stage of differentiation. Pro-inflammatory signals, Th2 cytokines in particular, generated following allergen challenge, can impact on haemopoietic progenitor differentiation and mobilization, leading to accelerated Eo/B production. Allergen inhalation by allergic asthmatics induces a time-dependent change in cytokine levels within the bone marrow compartment, influencing differentiation of Eo/B progenitors, as evidenced by the relationship between increased bone marrow IL-5 levels and Eo/B production. It is proposed that inhaled allergen induces trafficking of IL-5-producing T lymphocytes to the bone marrow, further promoting eosinophilopoiesis through IL-5R signalling. In this manner, Th2 lymphocyte trafficking from the airway may regulate events occurring in the bone marrow. Negative regulators of Eo/B differentiation, including Th1 cytokines, may prove to be important for restoring homeostasis. Eo/B progenitors are also altered in cord blood of infants at risk of atopy and asthma, offering a potential biomarker for, and raising the possibility that Eo/B progenitors are directly involved in the development of allergic disease. For example, changes in the expression of haemopoietic cytokine receptors on cord blood progenitor cells are associated with maternal allergic sensitization, atopic risk and its development, suggesting that haemopoietic processes underlying the allergic phenotype may begin to evolve in the perinatal period.