Basophils: emerging roles in the pathogenesis of allergic disease


  • John T. Schroeder

    1. Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Department of Medicine, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA.
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John T. Schroeder
The Johns Hopkins Asthma and Allergy Center
Unit Office 2 (2A-2)
5501 Hopkins Bayview Circle
Baltimore, MD 21224, USA
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Summary:  After approximately 130 years since their discovery as rare granulocytes that circulate in blood, basophils are just now gaining respect as significant contributors in the pathogenesis underlying allergic inflammation and disease. While long known for secreting preformed and newly synthesized mediators and for selectively infiltrating tissue during immunoglobulin E (IgE)-mediated inflammation, their role has largely been viewed as redundant to that of tissue mast cells in functioning as effector cells. This line of thought has persisted even though it has been known in humans for approximately 20 years that basophils additionally produce relatively large quantities of cytokines, e.g. interleukin-4 (IL-4)/IL-13, that are central for the manifestations of allergic disease. Studies using novel IL-4 reporter mice have significantly added to the in vivo importance of basophils as IL-4 producing cells, with recent findings indicating that these cells also function as antigen-presenting cells essential in initiating T-helper 2 responses. If confirmed and translated to humans, these provocative findings will give new meaning to the role basophils have in allergic disease, and in immunology overall.