Allergic Sensitization: Host-Immune Factors

Clin Transl Allergy. 2014 Apr 15;4(1):12. doi: 10.1186/2045-7022-4-12.


Allergic sensitization is the outcome of a complex interplay between the allergen and the host in a given environmental context. The first barrier encountered by an allergen on its way to sensitization is the mucosal epithelial layer. Allergic inflammatory diseases are accompanied by increased permeability of the epithelium, which is more susceptible to environmental triggers. Allergens and co-factors from the environment interact with innate immune receptors, such as Toll-like and protease-activated receptors on epithelial cells, stimulating them to produce cytokines that drive T-helper 2-like adaptive immunity in allergy-prone individuals. In this milieu, the next cells interacting with allergens are the dendritic cells lying just underneath the epithelium: plasmacytoid DCs, two types of conventional DCs (CD11b + and CD11b-), and monocyte-derived DCs. It is now becoming clear that CD11b+, cDCs, and moDCs are the inflammatory DCs that instruct naïve T cells to become Th2 cells. The simple paradigm of non-overlapping stable Th1 and Th2 subsets of T-helper cells is now rapidly being replaced by that of a more complex spectrum of different Th cells that together drive or control different aspects of allergic inflammation and display more plasticity in their cytokine profiles. At present, these include Th9, Th17, Th22, and Treg, in addition to Th1 and Th2. The spectrum of co-stimulatory signals coming from DCs determines which subset-characteristics will dominate. When IL-4 and/or IL-13 play a dominant role, B cells switch to IgE-production, a process that is more effective at young age. IgE-producing plasma cells have been shown to be long-lived, hiding in the bone-marrow or inflammatory tissues where they cannot easily be targeted by therapeutic intervention. Allergic sensitization is a complex interplay between the allergen in its environmental context and the tendency of the host's innate and adaptive immune cells to be skewed towards allergic inflammation. These data and findings were presented at a 2012 international symposium in Prague organized by the Protein Allergenicity Technical Committee of the International Life Sciences Institute's Health and Environmental Sciences Institute.