The innate immune system consists of multiple cell types that express germline-encoded pattern recognition receptors that recognize pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) or danger-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs). Allergens are frequently found in forms and mixtures that contain PAMPs and DAMPs. The innate immune system is interposed between the external environment and the internal acquired immune system. It is also an integral part of the airways, gut, and skin. These tissues face continuous exposure to allergens, PAMPs, and DAMPs. Interaction of allergens with the innate immune system normally results in immune tolerance but, in the case of allergic disease, this interaction induces recurring and/or chronic inflammation as well as the loss of immunologic tolerance. Upon activation by allergens, the innate immune response commits the acquired immune response to a variety of outcomes mediated by distinct T-cell subsets, such as T-helper 2, regulatory T, or T-helper 17 cells. New studies highlighted in this review underscore the close relationship between allergens, the innate immune system, and the acquired immune system that promotes homeostasis versus allergic disease.
© 2011 John Wiley & Sons A/S.