Phenotypic characterization of T cells infiltrating the conjunctiva in chronic allergic eye disease

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1996 Sep;98(3):686-96. doi: 10.1016/s0091-6749(96)70103-3.


Background: Chronic allergic conjunctivitis comprises a spectrum of diseases including atopic keratoconjunctivitis, atopic blepharoconjunctivitis, vernal keratoconjunctivitis, and contact lens-associated giant pupillary conjunctivitis. Each condition is characterized by a complex immunopathology with a mixed cellular infiltrate. Treatment with conventional mast cell stabilizers is often unsatisfactory, and therapy depends heavily on topical corticosteroids.

Objective: Recent evidence suggests that T lymphocytes play an important role in mediating the immunopathology seen in the chronic allergic response in the skin and the lungs.

Methods: We have therefore investigated the prevalence of T cells and their subsets in the different chronic allergic eye conditions by means of immunohistochemistry.

Results: We found significantly increased numbers of CD4+, CD45RO+, and HLA-DR+ T cells in the conjunctiva of patients with atopic and vernal keratoconjunctivitis and giant papillary conjunctivitis, with a corresponding upregulation of markers present on antigen presenting cells.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that like allergic conditions in the skin and lungs, CD4+ memory T cells are involved in the regulation of the immunopathology of chronic allergic eye responses. Further characterization of these T cells will provide the information necessary for future immunotherapeutic interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cell Movement / immunology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Conjunctivitis, Allergic / immunology*
  • Conjunctivitis, Allergic / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Middle Aged
  • Staining and Labeling
  • T-Lymphocytes / classification*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / pathology*