Elevated expression of interleukin-9 mRNA in the bronchial mucosa of atopic asthmatics and allergen-induced cutaneous late-phase reaction: relationships to eosinophils, mast cells and T lymphocytes

Clin Exp Allergy. 2002 Jun;32(6):866-71. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2222.2002.01376.x.


Background: Interleukin-9 is a T cell-derived Th2-type cytokine that has been linked to airway hyper-responsiveness, mucus hypersecretion and mast cell infiltration in animal models. We recently demonstrated the potential for IL-9 to act in human eosinophil development and survival.

Objectives: The aims of this study were: (i) to compare IL-9 mRNA expression in bronchial biopsies between atopic asthmatics and normal controls, (ii) to investigate kinetic expression of IL-9 mRNA in skin biopsies after allergen challenge; and (iii) to relate IL-9 expression to infiltration of eosinophils, mast cell and T lymphocytes in local tissue.

Methods: Bronchial biopsies were obtained from atopic asthmatics (n = 12) and normal non-asthmatics (n = 12) at baseline. Skin biopsies were obtained from atopic subjects (n = 11) at 1, 3, 6, 24, 48 and 72 h after allergen challenge. Diluent challenge sites at 24 h were used as controls. IL-9 mRNA was identified using the technique of in situ hybridization. The numbers of eosinophils, mast cells and T cells were evaluated by immunohistochemistry.

Results: The numbers of IL-9 mRNA(+) cells present in the bronchial mucosa were significantly greater in atopic asthmatics than those in normal controls (P = 0.003). The numbers of eosinophils, but not mast cells, were also significantly higher in asthmatics (P < 0.005). The numbers of IL-9 mRNA(+) cells present in the airway of asthmatics significantly correlated with the numbers of eosinophils (r = 0.623, P = 0.03), but not mast cells or T cells. Compared with diluent challenge, the numbers of IL-9 mRNA(+) cells were significantly elevated at all allergen-challenged sites in the skin, with maximal signals at 48 h (P < 0.005). At 72 h, the numbers of IL-9 mRNA(+) cells significantly correlated with the numbers of eosinophils (r = 0.707, P = 0.015).

Conclusion: Elevated expression of IL-9 in allergic inflammation may contribute to local eosinophil infiltration and survival in asthma and other allergic atopic diseases.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / genetics*
  • Biopsy
  • Bronchi / blood supply*
  • Bronchi / metabolism*
  • Bronchi / pathology
  • Eosinophils / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / genetics*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Interleukin-9 / genetics*
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Male
  • Mast Cells / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis*
  • Respiratory Mucosa / blood supply*
  • Respiratory Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Respiratory Mucosa / pathology
  • Statistics as Topic
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Time Factors
  • United Kingdom


  • Interleukin-9
  • RNA, Messenger