Mechanisms of tolerance to inhalant allergens: the relevance of a modified Th2 response to allergens from domestic animals

Springer Semin Immunopathol. 2004 Feb;25(3-4):271-9. doi: 10.1007/s00281-003-0149-8. Epub 2003 Nov 7.


Subjects can be "non-allergic" because (1) they are not exposed, (2) they fail to make an immune response, or (3) they make an immune response that does not include IgE antibodies (Ab). The recent observation that children raised in a house with a cat are less likely to become allergic to cat allergen than those who only get indirect exposure provides a model to investigate the factors controlling allergic responses. Many of these highly exposed children have made an IgG and IgG4 Ab response to Fel d 1 without IgE Ab, i.e., a "modified Th2 response". In countries where cats are a major cause of asthma, the presence of a cat may decrease the risk of asthma. By contrast, in countries with high exposure to dust mites, cats can induce specific tolerance to Fel d 1 without influencing asthma or the IgE Ab response to dust mites. Using overlapping peptides to investigate T cell responses to Fel d 1 suggests that the structure of the molecule plays a special role in inducing the T cell responses that can "control" the immune response to cat allergens. This T cell response is characterized by high levels of IL-10 production, but this is not restricted to those who have made a modified Th2 response. The results suggest that there are major differences in the immune response to different allergens that profoundly affect their role in allergic disease. Dust mite and cockroach differ from cat (and rat) allergens not only in the quantity inhaled and the particles' sizes but also in the biochemistry of the molecule.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / immunology*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic*
  • Cats
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance*
  • Inhalation Exposure / prevention & control
  • Pyroglyphidae / immunology
  • Th2 Cells / immunology*


  • Allergens