Cytokine production from sputum cells after allergenic challenge in IgE-mediated asthma

Allergy. 2002 Dec;57(12):1145-50. doi: 10.1034/j.1398-9995.2002.23586.x.


Background: Th2 cytokine production from airway cells is thought to govern the eosinophilic airways inflammation in allergic asthma. Induced sputum has become a widely used technique to assess airways inflammation.

Methods: By applying the technique of induced sputum to collect airways cells, we have assessed the spontaneous production of a set of cytokines, including interleukin-4, 6, 10, interferon-gamma and tumour necrosis factor-alpha, 6 h after a bronchial allergenic challenge with Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus (Dpt) in 12 sensitized asthmatics and compared the results obtained after inhalation of saline as control. A group of eight healthy non-allergic subjects was enrolled to control for any non-specific effect of Dpt. Cytokines were measured by a dynamic immunoassay during a 24-h sputum cell culture.

Results: Allergen challenge in sensitized asthmatics caused an acute and a late bronchospasm together with a rise in sputum eosinophil counts. Afterwards allergen sputum cells from allergic asthmatics displayed a rise in their production of IL-4 (P < 0.01), IL-6 (P < 0.05) and IL-10 (P < 0.05) when compared to saline. By this time sputum generation of IL-4 in atopic asthmatics was greater than in healthy subjects (P < 0.001). Furthermore, in allergic asthmatics there was a strong correlation between the rise in interleukin-4 production from sputum cells and the rise in sputum eosinophils (r = 0.87, P < 0.001).

Conclusions: Sputum cell culture is a useful model to assess cytokine production in allergic asthmatics who show a marked up-regulation of Th2 cytokines following acute allergen exposure. The rise in sputum eosinophil count following allergen challenge strongly correlates with the rise in IL-4 generation from sputum cells.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Allergens / administration & dosage*
  • Allergens / adverse effects*
  • Asthma / etiology*
  • Asthma / metabolism*
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Bronchial Provocation Tests*
  • Bronchial Spasm / etiology
  • Bronchial Spasm / immunology
  • Bronchial Spasm / metabolism
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis*
  • Cytokines / drug effects*
  • Eosinophils / drug effects
  • Eosinophils / metabolism
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / etiology*
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / metabolism*
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / physiopathology
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Macrophages / drug effects
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neutrophils / drug effects
  • Neutrophils / metabolism
  • Sodium Chloride / administration & dosage
  • Sodium Chloride / adverse effects
  • Sputum / cytology*
  • Sputum / metabolism*
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Time Factors


  • Allergens
  • Cytokines
  • Sodium Chloride