Background: Pediatric eosinophilic esophagitis (EE) is a recently described disorder associated with atopy. Although studies of esophageal tissue suggest that Th2 cytokines and eotaxin-3 may be crucial in disease pathogenesis, little is known about the systemic immunological phenotypes of children with EE.
Objectives: To define the phenotypes of peripheral blood eosinophils and lymphocytes in EE and to examine for correlations between these parameters and tissue eosinophil numbers and disease severity.
Patients and methods: Blood was collected from children with EE, atopic control children without EE, and nonatopic control children without EE. Flow cytometry was used to measure eosinophil expression of chemokine receptor 3 (CCR3) and interleukin-5 receptor-alpha (IL-5Ralpha), and intracellular lymphocyte expression of IL-4, IL-5, IL-13, interferon-gamma, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha. Eosinophil numbers and eotaxin-3 mRNA levels were quantitated in esophageal biopsy specimens.
Results: Compared with nonatopic control children, EE patients with active disease had increased peripheral blood eosinophil percentages, mean channel of fluorescence (MCF) of CCR3 on eosinophils, and percentage of CD4+ T cells expressing IL-5. Notably, these parameters positively correlated with esophageal eosinophil numbers. Eotaxin-3 tissue expression positively correlated with esophageal eosinophil numbers and peripheral blood eosinophil CCR3 MCF. The percentage of peripheral blood eosinophils, eosinophil CCR3 MCF, and CD4+ T cell expression of IL-5 were lower in EE patients in disease remission than in patients with active disease.
Conclusions: Collectively, these studies demonstrate cooperation between systemic CD4+ Th2-cell-mediated immunity and an enhanced eosinophil-CCR3/eotaxin-3 pathway in EE pathogenesis. Furthermore, the imbalanced Th2 immunity and increased CCR3 expression are reversible with disease remission.