Background: The expression of IL-4 and IL-5 is increased in patients with atopic asthma compared with control subjects and correlates with indices of pulmonary function. In nonatopic asthma the expression of IL-4, unlike IL-5, fails to correlate with pulmonary function, and compared with their atopic counterparts, these patients have fewer cells expressing IL-4 receptor (IL-4R). As such, a deficiency in the IL-4 signaling pathway may be implicated in nonatopic asthma. The transcription factors GATA-3 and cMAF mediate IL-4 and IL-5 synthesis, whereas signal transducer and activator of transcription 6 (STAT-6) is critical for IL-4R signaling.
Objective: This study examines the expression profile of these transcription factors in asthma, according to atopic status.
Methods: With immunocytochemistry, the expression of GATA-3, cMAF, and STAT-6 protein was determined in sections of bronchial biopsy specimens from patients with atopic asthma (n = 7), patients with nonatopic asthma (n = 8), and control subjects (n = 8).
Results: Higher numbers of cells expressing GATA-3 and cMAF were observed in patients with atopic and those with nonatopic asthma than in control subjects and patients with tuberculosis (P <.001). There were also more STAT-6-immunoreactive cells in patients with atopic and those with nonatopic asthma than in control subjects (P <.0001, P <.05). Notably, however, fewer cells expressing STAT-6 protein were observed in nonatopic versus atopic asthma (P <.0001).
Conclusions: These results demonstrate the upregulation of GATA-3 and cMAF in both variants of asthma and indicate that reduced IL-4R signaling, because of lower STAT-6 expression, may be a feature of nonatopic asthma.