FcεR1-expressing nociceptors trigger allergic airway inflammation

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2021 Jun;147(6):2330-2342. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2020.12.644. Epub 2021 Jan 13.


Background: Lung nociceptor neurons amplify immune cell activity and mucus metaplasia in response to an inhaled allergen challenge in sensitized mice.

Objective: We sought to identify the cellular mechanisms by which these sensory neurons are activated subsequent to allergen exposure.

Methods: We used calcium microscopy and electrophysiologic recording to assess whether vagal neurons directly respond to the model allergen ovalbumin (OVA). Next, we generated the first nociceptor-specific FcεR1γ knockdown (TRPV1Cre::FcεR1γfl/fl) mice to assess whether this targeted invalidation would affect the severity of allergic inflammation in response to allergen challenges.

Results: Lung-innervating jugular nodose complex ganglion neurons express the high-affinity IgE receptor FcεR1, the levels of which increase in OVA-sensitized mice. FcεR1γ-expressing vagal nociceptor neurons respond directly to OVA complexed with IgE with depolarization, action potential firing, calcium influx, and neuropeptide release. Activation of vagal neurons by IgE-allergen immune complexes, through the release of substance P from their peripheral terminals, directly amplifies TH2 cell influx and polarization in the airways. Allergic airway inflammation is decreased in TRPV1Cre::FcεR1γfl/fl mice and in FcεR1α-/- mice into which bone marrow has been transplanted. Finally, increased in vivo circulating levels of IgE following allergen sensitization enhances the responsiveness of FcεR1 to immune complexes in both mouse jugular nodose complex ganglion neurons and human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived nociceptors.

Conclusions: Allergen sensitization triggers a feedforward inflammatory loop between IgE-producing plasma cells, FcεR1-expressing vagal sensory neurons, and TH2 cells, which helps to both initiate and amplify allergic airway inflammation. These data highlight a novel target for reducing allergy, namely, FcεR1γ expressed by nociceptors.

Keywords: FcεR1; Neuroimmunity; T(H)2; TRPV1; allergen detection; allergy; asthma; nociceptor neurons; substance P; vagal sensing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / immunology
  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disease Susceptibility / immunology
  • Gene Expression*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Hypersensitivity / genetics
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Hypersensitivity / metabolism*
  • Hypersensitivity / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Neurons / immunology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Nociceptors / metabolism
  • Ovalbumin / adverse effects
  • Ovalbumin / immunology
  • Receptors, IgE / genetics*
  • Receptors, IgE / metabolism
  • Respiratory Mucosa / immunology*
  • Respiratory Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Respiratory Mucosa / pathology
  • Substance P / metabolism
  • Vagus Nerve


  • Allergens
  • Receptors, IgE
  • Substance P
  • Ovalbumin
  • Calcium