Background: The intercellular adhesion molecule ICAM-1 has been detected by immunohistochemical methods on epithelial cells of the conjunctiva and nose during allergic inflammation.
Objective: The aim of the present study was to evaluate whether ICAM-1 expression on conjunctival epithelium derives from endogenous synthesis or is merely due to passive uptake of soluble ICAM-1 released from inflammatory cells.
Methods: In situ hybridization was performed using a 3' end dygoxygenin-labelled specific DNA oligonucleotide probe on fixed conjunctival smears from allergic subjects challenged with, or naturally exposed to the allergen, and from healthy subjects. Immunocytochemistry for ICAM-1 was performed by alkaline phosphatase antialkaline phosphatase.
Results: In allergic patients, both naturally exposed to the allergen and after specific challenge, a clear hybridization pattern on epithelial cells was apparent. Out of allergen exposure, some symptomfree pollinosic subjects, as well as a few healthy volunteers showed mild ICAM-1 mRNA cytoplasmic staining in the absence of immunohistochemically detectable ICAM-1. This finding may explain the very early appearance of ICAM-1 on conjunctival epithelium following specific challenge in allergic individuals.
Conclusions: These results indicate that the presence of ICAM-1 on conjunctival epithelium during allergic inflammation derives from endogenous synthesis and not from uptake of soluble ICAM-1.