• atopy;
  • childhood;
  • IL-4;
  • interferon-gamma


In vitro studies have implicated reciprocal roles for IL-4 and interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) in the regulation of IgE production. As elevated IgE is a major feature of atopic disease, an important question is whether an imbalance of IL-4 and IFN-γ is present in vivo. The production of IL-4 and IFN-γ in phytohaemagglutinin (PHA)-stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cell cultures from atopic children was examined to determine if there is an increased production of IL-4 and/or a reduced production of IFN-γ. Highly atopic children with IgE >600 U/ml produced significantly more IL-4 and less IFN-γin vitro than age-matched non-atopic controls. Production of IL-4 and IFN-γ in mildly atopic children was equivalent to controls. These findings indicate that highly atopic children have an imbalance of IL-4 and IFN-γ production and that the degree of imbalance relates to severity of the atopic state. The ratio of in vitro IL-4: IFN-γ production correlated positively with serum IgE, which suggests that the balance of these two cytokines is a factor in the regulation of IgE, in vivo. It remains to be determined whether this imbalance of IL-4 and IFN-γ in the highly atopic children is the cause or result of the disease process.