Background: IL-4 by binding to its receptor (IL-4R) is essential for the development of airway inflammation present in asthma, through the induction of IgE synthesis in B cells and differentiation of T cells to a Th2 phenotype.
Objective: To investigate the role of four common polymorphisms in the IL-4 (IL4-34CT and IL4-589CT) and IL-4Ralpha chain (IL4RAI50V and IL4RAQ576R) genes in conferring susceptibility to the development of atopy and/or asthma.
Methods: Two polymorphisms in the IL-4 gene promoter, IL4-34CT and IL4-589CT, and two polymorphisms in the IL-4Ralpha chain gene, IL4RAI50V and IL4RAQ576R, have been genotyped using PCR-based methods in 341 asthmatic families and in 184 non-asthmatic adults recruited from the south of England.
Results: Case-control analysis did not reveal differences in the distribution of the four polymorphisms between asthmatics and controls. However, the transmission disequilibrium test showed that the IL4-589 T allele was preferentially transmitted to asthmatic children (P=0.036) and that the IL4RAQ576 was preferentially transmitted to children with atopic asthma (P=0.018). Haplotype analysis showed a strong association between the IL4-34T/-589T haplotype and asthma per se (P=0.041), and a strong association between the IL4RA I50/Q576 haplotype and atopic asthma (P=0.006).
Conclusion: Our data suggest that polymorphisms in the IL-4 and IL-4Ralpha chain genes might play a role both conferring susceptibility to and modulating severity of atopy and asthma.