Exposure to endotoxin and allergen in early life and its effect on allergen sensitization in mice

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2003 Aug;112(2):389-96. doi: 10.1067/mai.2003.1646.


Background: Exposure to endotoxins, allergens, or both in early life might regulate the development of tolerance to allergens later in life.

Objective: We investigated whether continuous exposure of infant mice to aerosolized endotoxin, allergen, or both inhibits subsequent allergen-induced immune and inflammatory responses.

Methods: Infant BALB/c mice were pre-exposed to aerosolized endotoxin, ovalbumin (OVA), or both (3 times a week for the first 4 weeks of life) before systemic sensitization (days 1-14) and repeated airway challenge (days 28-30) with OVA.

Results: Compared with that seen in negative control animals, systemic sensitization and airway allergen challenges induced high serum levels of allergen-specific IgE (0.7 +/- 0.09 vs 0.02 +/- 0.01 OD units), predominant T(H)2-type cytokine production (IL-5 by splenic mononuclear cells in vitro, 1.2 +/- 0.2 vs 0.04 +/- 0.06 ng/mL), airway inflammation (bronchoalveolar lavage fluid leukocytes, 125 +/- 15 vs 64 +/- 7/microL; eosinophils, 28 +/- 5 vs 1 +/- 0/microL) and development of in vivo airway hyperreactivity (maximal enhanced pause, 11 +/- 1.9 vs 4 +/- 0.2). Pre-exposure with LPS before sensitization increased production of specific IgG2a (67 +/- 10 vs 32 +/- 5 U/mL) but failed to prevent T(H)2-mediated immune responses. Pre-exposure with OVA or with OVA plus LPS completely suppressed allergen sensitization, airway inflammation, and development of in vivo airway hyperreactivity; values were similar to those of negative control animals. Inhibition was due to allergen-specific T-cell anergy indicated by omitted allergen-specific T(H)2 and T(H)1 immune responses. In addition, combined exposure to endotoxin and allergen induced a general shift toward an unspecific T(H)1 immune response.

Conclusion: Exposure with endotoxins before allergen sensitization is not able to induce unresponsiveness but might decrease the susceptibility for sensitization to a variety of common allergens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols
  • Allergens / immunology*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn / immunology*
  • Antibody Formation / drug effects
  • Bronchitis / immunology
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Epitopes
  • Immunization*
  • Lipopolysaccharides / administration & dosage*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Ovalbumin / administration & dosage*


  • Aerosols
  • Allergens
  • Epitopes
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Ovalbumin