Ontogeny of T-helper 1 and T-helper 2 cytokine production in childhood

Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2001 Aug;12(4):181-7. doi: 10.1034/j.1399-3038.2001.012004181.x.


Compared to adults, infants and young children demonstrate differences in their immune response, indicating that there is maturation or change over time and it is probable that this may be reflected in cytokine production. Cytokine responses have been demonstrated to be different in atopic and non-atopic individuals. In this study, we examined T-helper 1 (Th1) (interferon-gamma [IFN-gamma]) and T-helper 2 (Th2) (interleukin [IL]-4, IL-5, and IL-13) cytokine release from atopic and non-atopic children in response to the staphylococcal superantigen, staphylococcal enterotoxin B (SEB). In non-atopic and atopic children, IFN-gamma, IL-4, and IL-5 release was significantly related to age. Non-atopic children younger than 2 years of age were found to have significantly reduced Th2 (IL-4, IL-5, and IL-13) responses when compared with older, non-atopic children. Atopic children had a reduced IFN-gamma response when compared with non-atopics in early childhood; however, the decreased IFN-gamma response seen in early childhood did not persist after 10 years. These age-related changes in cytokine production provide further support for the concept that cytokine deviations may determine the natural history of atopic disease during early childhood. In addition, the present study indicates the necessity of age-matched controls when examining children for both Th1 (IFN-gamma) and Th2 (IL-4) cytokine release.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging / immunology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis*
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Hypersensitivity / metabolism
  • Immunoglobulin E / biosynthesis
  • Infant
  • Interferon-gamma / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-10 / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-4 / biosynthesis
  • Staphylococcus / immunology
  • Superantigens / immunology
  • Th1 Cells / metabolism*
  • Th2 Cells / metabolism*


  • Cytokines
  • Superantigens
  • Interleukin-10
  • Interleukin-4
  • Immunoglobulin E
  • Interferon-gamma