Rationale: Mouse models of allergic airway disease have greatly contributed to our understanding of disease induction and pathogenesis. Although these models typically investigate responses to a single antigen or allergen, humans are frequently exposed to a myriad of allergens, each with distinct antigenic potential.
Objectives: Given that airway exposure to ovalbumin (OVA), a prototypic innocuous antigen, induces inhalation tolerance, we wished to investigate how this response would be altered if OVA were encountered concurrently with a house dust mite extract (HDM), which we have recently shown is capable of eliciting a robust allergic airway inflammatory response that is mediated, at least in part, by granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor.
Methods: Balb/c mice were exposed daily to HDM (intranasally) followed immediately by exposure to aerosolized OVA for 5 weeks. To allow the inflammatory response elicited by HDM to subside fully, mice were then allowed to rest, unexposed, for 8 weeks, at which time they were rechallenged with aerosolized OVA for 3 consecutive days.
Measurements and main results: At this time, we observed a robust eosinophilic inflammatory response in the lung that was associated with an increase in bronchial hyperreactivity. Moreover, we documented significantly elevated serum levels of OVA-specific IgE and IgG(1) and increased production of the Th2 cytokines interleukin 4 (IL-4), IL-5, and IL-13 by splenocytes stimulated in vitro with OVA.
Conclusion: Our data demonstrate the potential of a potent allergen such as HDM to establish a lung microenvironment that fosters the development of allergic sensitization to otherwise weak or innocuous antigens, such as OVA.