Background and objective: A subset of IL-4 producing CD8+ T cells was recently identified in HIV patients. Based on these findings we examined whether IL-4 producing CD8+ T cells would also be present in allergic patients and what would be the functional relevance of this T-cell population.
Methods: We investigated the role of CD8+ T cells in IgE production of allergic diseases by analysing the cytokine profile of individual CD4+ and CD8+ T cells.
Results: In allergic patients about twice as many CD4+ T cells and six times as many CD8+ T cells produced IL-4 as in non-allergic controls. In contrast the frequency of IFNgamma+ T-cell subsets did not significantly differ between the allergic and non-allergic individuals. The frequency of IL4+ CD8+ T cells correlated with the level of serum IgE. Coculture experiments with T cells or purified CD8+ T cells together with autologous B cells indicated that CD8+ T cells enhanced IgE in vitro, but not IgM production, even when they were physically separated from B cells. This effect could be partially blocked by addition of an IL-4 binding protein, a soluble IL-4 receptor indicating that IL-4 is involved in CD8+ T-cell mediated IgE production.
Conclusions: These data indicate a positive role of IL-4 secreting CD8+ T cells in IgE regulation in allergic patients.