Human airway and peripheral blood eosinophils enhance Th1 and Th2 cytokine secretion

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The effector function of eosinophils involves their release of toxic granule proteins, reactive oxygen species, cytokines, and lipid mediators. Murine studies have demonstrated that eosinophils can also enhance T cell function. Whether human eosinophils, in particular, airway eosinophils, have similar immunoregulatory activity has not been fully investigated. The aim of this study was to determine whether human blood and airway eosinophils can contribute to Th1 and Th2 cytokine generation from CD4+ T cells stimulated with superantigen.


Eosinophils were obtained from blood or bronchoalveolar lavage fluid 48 h after segmental allergen bronchoprovocation. Purified eosinophils were co-cultured with autologous CD4+ blood T cells in the presence of staphylococcal enterotoxin B (SEB). Cytokine levels in the supernatant fluid were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Eosinophil expression of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II and co-stimulatory molecules was assessed by flow cytometry before culture, 24 h after granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) stimulation, and 24 h after co-culture with CD4+ T cells and SEB.


Interleukin (IL)-5, IL-13, and interferon (IFN)-γ generation increased when CD4+ T cells were co-cultured with either blood or airway eosinophils in the presence of SEB. The ability of eosinophils to enhance cytokine generation was independent of their source (blood vs airway), activation by GM-CSF, or detectable expression of human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-DR, CD80, or CD86.


Our data demonstrate that SEB-induced generation of Th1 and Th2 cytokines is increased in the presence of human blood and airway eosinophils. Thus, eosinophils can have an immunoregulatory function in pathogen-associated allergic diseases such as atopic dermatitis, chronic sinusitis, and asthma exacerbations.

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