Systemic innate immune activation in food protein–induced enterocolitis syndrome

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Abstract

Background

Food protein–induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES) is a non–IgE-mediated food allergy of infancy whose pathophysiology is poorly understood.

Objectives

We set out to identify and phenotype allergen-responsive cells in peripheral blood of a cohort of subjects undergoing supervised food challenge for FPIES.

Methods

We profiled antigen-responsive cells in PBMCs by flow cytometry, and examined cells in whole blood obtained before and after challenge by CyTOF mass cytometry and RNAseq.

Results

Using a CD154-based detection approach, we observed that milk, soy, or rice-responsive T cells, and TNF-α–producing CD154+ T cells, were significantly lower in those with outgrown FPIES compared with those with active FPIES. However, levels were within the normal range and were inconsistent with a role in the pathophysiology of FPIES. Profiling of whole blood by CyTOF demonstrated profound activation of cells of the innate immune system after food challenge, including monocytes, neutrophils, natural killer cells, and eosinophils. Activation was not observed in children with outgrown FPIES. We confirmed this pattern of innate immune activation in a larger cohort by RNAseq. Furthermore, we observed pan–T-cell activation and redistribution from the circulation after a positive food challenge but not in those who had outgrown their FPIES.

Conclusions

Our data demonstrate a compelling role of systemic innate immune activation in adverse reactions elicited by foods in FPIES. Further investigation is needed to identify the mechanism of antigen specificity of adverse reactions to foods in FPIES.

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