Interleukin-5 immunoreactivity and mRNA expression in gut mucosa from patients with food allergy

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Background and aims

Eosinophils, mast cells and T lymphocytes are important cells in the allergic inflammatory process. These cells produce and are regulated by cytokines such as interleukin-3 (IL-3), interleukin-5 (IL-5) and granulocyte macrophage-colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF). We initiated this study to evaluate pathological abnormalities and to detect IL-5 in the duodenal mucosa from patients with food allergy.


Endoscopy duodenal biopsy specimens were obtained from seven food-allergic patients, six atopic healthy controls and six nonatopic healthy controls. IL-5 protein was evaluated by immunohistochemistry. Electron microscopy as well as double immunofluorescent staining were used to identify the labelled cells and to localize IL-5. IL-5 mRNA expression was evaluated by qualitative polymerase chain reaction.


A significantly increased number of lymphocytes, mast cells and eosinophils was detected in the lamina propria in food-allergic patients and, in lower number, in atopic controls. Immunostaining for IL-5 was markedly positive in food-allergic patients, slightly increased in atopic controls and negative in nonatopic controls. Ultrastructurally, in food-allergic patients and in atopic controls, IL-5 was localized in eosinophil granules, in the matrix of intact granules and at the periphery of altered granules. Double immunofluorescent staining was performed in food-allergic patients and showed that 86.7% of IL-5+ cells were eosinophils, and that IL-5 was expressed by 24% of eosinophils. IL-5 mRNA was expressed in food-allergic patients but was not detected in atopic and nonatopic controls.


Activated eosinophils are involved in gut atopic reactions occurring in food allergy and are probably in part upregulated by their own local production of IL-5.

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