Involvement of the iNKT Cell Pathway Is Associated With Early-Onset Eosinophilic Esophagitis and Response to Allergen Avoidance Therapy

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OBJECTIVES:Recent experimental evidence suggests that environmental microbial factors early in life determine susceptibility to allergic diseases through inappropriate chemotaxis and local activation of CD1d-restricted, invariant chain natural killer T (iNKT) cells. In this study, we analyzed the involvement of these pathways in pediatric patients with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) before and after dietary allergen elimination.METHODS:mRNA expression levels of components of the C-X-C motif chemokine ligand 16 (CXCL16)–iNKT–CD1d axis were compared in esophageal biopsies from EoE patients vs. normal or inflammatory controls and before and after treatment.RESULTS:CXCL16, iNKT cell–associated cell marker Vα24, and CD1d were significantly upregulated in esophageal biopsies from EoE patients and correlated with the expression of inflammatory mediators associated with allergy. Upregulation of each of these factors was significantly more pronounced in patients aged <6 years at diagnosis, and this early-onset EoE subpopulation was characterized by a more prominent food allergic disease phenotype in a cohort-wide analysis. Successful, but not unsuccessful, treatment of early-onset EoE patients with dietary elimination of instigating allergens led to reduction in infiltrating iNKT cells and complete normalization of mRNA expression levels of CXCL16 and CD1d.CONCLUSIONS:Our observations place iNKT cells at the center of allergic inflammation associated with EoE, which could have profound implications for our understanding, treatment and prevention of this and other human allergic diseases.

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