Background: Segmental antigen challenge in allergic volunteer subjects leads to the recruitment of inflammatory cells, including eosinophils, to the lung and to lung injury as shown by albumin influx into the alveolar air space. The goal of this study was to determine whether eosinophil-active cytokines, including IL-3, IL-5, or granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, are released into the lung 24 hours after segmental antigen challenge of ragweed allergic subjects with allergic rhinitis and to determine whether the presence of the cytokine or cytokines is correlated with markers of lung inflammation and lung injury.
Methods: Volunteers underwent challenge with a wide variety of antigen doses, which resulted in the recruitment of inflammatory cell mixtures both with and without eosinophils.
Results: Eosinophil survival activity (ESA), the ability of the cytokine to prolong blood eosinophil survival in culture, was found in 5 of 17 ragweed allergic subjects and only in subjects challenged with relatively high doses of ragweed antigen (0.2 ragweed antigen units/ml or more). No ESA was found in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid in any of eight nonragweed allergic subjects. This activity could be almost completely neutralized by preincubating BAL fluid with specific antibody to IL-5, although a small contribution by granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor may also have been present. ESA correlated with eosinophil recruitment (r = 0.72, p < 0.001) and degranulation in the lung (r = 0.63 to 0.81, p < 0.01, for eosinophil granule constituents in BAL fluid) and lung injury as shown by albumin influx into the alveolar air spaces (r = 0.83, p < 0.001). ESA was unrelated to the presence of other inflammatory cells in the lung. Subjects who had IL-5 in BAL fluid appeared to undergo more severe initial reactions to antigen challenge.
Conclusions: We conclude that IL-5 is the most important constituent in ESA in the lung 24 hours after antigen challenge and that it correlates with eosinophil recruitment, degranulation, and lung injury.