T cell subsets in cord blood are influenced by maternal allergy and associated with atopic dermatitis

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Abstract

Background

This study aimed to investigate the influence of maternal allergy on cord blood regulatory and effector T cells and to evaluate their role as a predictor of atopic dermatitis (AD) during the first 2 yr of life.

Methods

Seventy mother–infant pairs were recruited in this prospective birth cohort study (21 allergic and 49 non-allergic mothers). Cord blood samples were collected and assayed for the percentage of regulatory T cells (Treg), interferon-γ (IFN-γ), and interleukin-4 (IL-4) producing T cells (Th1 and Th2, respectively) using flow cytometry. Experiments were undertaken to assess the function of cord blood CD4+CD25+CD127− Treg cells by cell proliferation and cytokine responses. Their offspring at the age of 2 yr old were evaluated by dermatologists to determine whether they had AD.

Results

During the first 2 yr of life, 15.7% of the children developed a physician-diagnosed AD. A significantly increased percentage of Th2 cell was observed in cord blood of newborns with maternal allergy. Treg/Th2 ratio significantly decreased among the offspring of allergic mothers. Treg cell-associated suppression of Th2 response was attenuated in Der p1-stimulated CD4+CD25− T cells from the offspring of allergic mothers. Children with reduced Th1/Th2 (p = 0.001, OR = 0.37) and Treg/Th2 (p = 0.001, OR = 0.47) ratio in cord blood had a higher risk of developing AD.

Conclusion

Maternal allergic status is associated with increased percentage of IL-4+CD4+ T cells and a reduced Treg/Th2 ratio in cord blood at their children's birth, which may predispose to an increased risk for developing AD.

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