Background: The underlying cellular mechanisms causing adverse reactions to food are complex and still not fully understood. Therefore, in this study we aimed to identify functional and/or phenotypical immune cell signatures characteristic for adult patients reporting adverse reactions to food. By mass cytometry, we performed high-dimensional profiling of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from adult patients reporting adverse reactions to food and healthy controls. The patients were grouped according to sIgE-positive or sIgE-negative serology to common food and inhalant allergens. Two broad antibody panels were used, allowing determination of major immune cell populations in PBMC, as well as activation status, proliferation status, and cytokine expression patterns after PMA/ionomycin-stimulation on a single cell level.
Results: By use of data-driven algorithms, several cell populations were identified showing significantly different marker expression between the groups. Most striking was an impaired frequency and function of polyfunctional CD4+ and CD8+ T cells in patients reporting adverse reactions to food compared to the controls. Further, subpopulations of monocytes, T cells, and B cells had increased expression of functional markers such as CD371, CD69, CD25, CD28, and/or HLA-DR as well as decreased expression of CD23 in the patients. Most of the differing cell subpopulations were similarly altered in the two subgroups of patients.
Conclusion: Our results suggest common immune cell features for both patient subgroups reporting adverse reactions to food, and provide a basis for further studies on mechanistic and diagnostic biomarker studies in food allergy.
Keywords: Adverse reactions to food; CITRUS algorithm; CyTOF/mass cytometry; Food allergy; Polyfunctional cells; Specific IgE.