Mechanisms of allergen immunotherapy for inhaled allergens and predictive biomarkers

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Allergen immunotherapy is effective in patients with IgE-dependent allergic rhinitis and asthma. When immunotherapy is given continuously for 3 years, there is persistent clinical benefit for several years after its discontinuation. This disease-modifying effect is both antigen-specific and antigen-driven. Clinical improvement is accompanied by decreases in numbers of effector cells in target organs, including mast cells, basophils, eosinophils, and type 2 innate lymphoid cells. Immunotherapy results in the production of blocking IgG/IgG4 antibodies that can inhibit IgE-dependent activation mediated through both high-affinity IgE receptors (FcεRI) on mast cells and basophils and low-affinity IgE receptors (FcεRII) on B cells. Suppression of TH2 immunity can occur as a consequence of either deletion or anergy of antigen-specific T cells; induction of antigen-specific regulatory T cells; or immune deviation in favor of TH1 responses. It is not clear whether the altered long-term memory resides within the T-cell or the B-cell compartment. Recent data highlight the role of IL-10–producing regulatory B cells and “protective” antibodies that likely contribute to long-term tolerance. Understanding mechanisms underlying induction and persistence of tolerance should identify predictive biomarkers of clinical response and discover novel and more effective strategies for immunotherapy.

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