Allergen immunotherapy is allergen-specific, allergen dose- and time-dependent and is associated with long-term clinical and immunological tolerance that persists for years after discontinuation. Successful immunotherapy is accompanied by the suppression of numbers of T-helper 2 (Th2) effector cells, eosinophils, basophils, c-kit+mast cells and neutrophils infiltration in target organs, induction of IL-10 and/or TGF-β+Treg cells and increases in ‘protective’ non-inflammatory blocking antibodies, particularly IgG4 and IgA2 subclasses with inhibitory activity. These events are accompanied by a reduction and/or a redirection of underlying antigen-specific Th2-type T cell-driven hypersensitivity to the allergen(s) used for therapy. This suppression occurs within weeks or months as a consequence of the appearance of a population of regulatory T cells that exert their effects by mechanisms involving cell–cell contact, but also by the release of cytokines such as IL-10 (increases IgG4) and TGF-β (increases specific IgA). The more delayed-in-time appearance of antigen-specific T-helper 1 responses and alternative mechanisms such as Th2 cell anergy and/or apoptosis may also be involved. The mechanisms of sublingual immunotherapy are similar to those following a subcutaneous administration of allergen, whereas it is likely that additional events following antigen presentation in the sublingual mucosa and regional lymph nodes are involved. These insights have resulted in novel approaches and portend future biomarkers that may be surrogate or predictive of the clinical response to treatment.
Cite this as: M. H. Shamji and S. R. Durham, Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 2011 (41) 1235–1246.