• cytokines;
  • eosinophils;
  • fibrosis;
  • immunomodulation;
  • remodeling;
  • skin

To cite this article: Roth N, Städler S, Lemann M, Hösli S, Simon H-U, Simon D. Distinct eosinophil cytokine expression patterns in skin diseases – the possible existence of functionally different eosinophil subpopulations. Allergy 2011; 66: 1477–1486.


Background:  The function of eosinophils has been attributed to host defense, immunomodulation, and fibrosis. Although eosinophils are found among infiltrating cells in a broad spectrum of skin diseases, their pathogenic role remains uncertain. This study aimed to analyze the cytokine expression by eosinophils in different skin diseases.

Methods:  Skin specimens from different skin diseases [allergic/reactive, infectious, autoimmune, and tumors/lymphomas (LY)] were stained by antibodies directed to eosinophil cationic protein, cytokines [tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, interleukin (IL)-5, IL-6, IL-10, IL-11, IL-13, IL-17, IL-25, IL-33, interferon-γ, transforming growth factor (TGF)-β, and thymic stromal lymphopoietin], eotaxins (CCL11, CCL24, and CCL26), metalloproteinase (MMP)-9 as well as extracellular matrix proteins (tenascin-C and procollagen-3) and then analyzed by laser scanning microscopy.

Results:  The number of eosinophils varied considerably in and between disease groups and did not correlate with the numbers of accompanying inflammatory cells. The expression of IL-5, IL-6, IL-11, TGF-β, CCL24, and MMP-9 by eosinophils significantly differed between disease groups. Eosinophils in tumors/LY predominantly expressed IL-6, TGF-β, and CCL24, but not IL-11. On the other hand, in autoimmune diseases, eosinophils largely contributed to MMP-9 production. IL-5-generating eosinophils were particularly obvious in allergic and infectious diseases.

Conclusion:  In skin diseases, eosinophil expresses a broad spectrum of cytokines. The different cytokine expression patterns suggest distinct functional roles of eosinophils in these diseases that might be related to host defense, immunomodulation, fibrosis, and/or tumor development.