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Abstract

Asthma is a T helper 2 (Th2)-driven inflammatory process characterized by eosinophilia. Prolonged airway eosinophilia is commonly observed in asthma exacerbations. Our aim was to evaluate whether eosinophilia in prolonged allergic inflammation is associated with a continuous supply of new eosinophils to the airways, and how this is regulated. Ovalbumin (OVA)-sensitized interferon-γ receptor knockout mice (IFN-γR KO), known to maintain a long-lasting eosinophilia after allergen exposure, were compared to wild type (wt) controls. Animals were exposed to OVA or phosphate-buffered saline on three consecutive days, and bone marrow (BM), blood and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) samples were collected 24 h, 7 and 21 days later. Newly produced cells were labelled using bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU). Serum IL-5 was measured and its role was investigated by administration of a neutralizing anti-IL-5 antibody. In-vitro eosinophilopoiesis was examined in both groups by a colony-forming assay. Allergen challenge increased eosinophils in BM, blood and BAL, in both IFN-γR KO and wt mice, both 24 h and 7 days after the last allergen exposure. At 21 days after the last exposure, only IFN-γR KO mice maintained significantly increased eosinophil numbers. Approximately 50% of BAL granulocytes in IFN-γR KO were produced during the last 6 days. Interleukin (IL)-5 concentration was increased in IFN-γR KO mice, and anti-IL-5 reduced eosinophil numbers in all compartments. Increased numbers of eosinophil colonies were observed in IFN-γR KO mice after allergen exposure versus controls. In this model of a Th2-driven prolonged allergic eosinophilia, new eosinophils contribute to the extended inflammation in the airways by enhanced BM eosinophilopoiesis in an IL-5-dependent manner.