The Journal of experimental medicine

In vivo switch to IL-10-secreting T regulatory cells in high dose allergen exposure.

PMID 19001136


High dose bee venom exposure in beekeepers by natural bee stings represents a model to understand mechanisms of T cell tolerance to allergens in healthy individuals. Continuous exposure of nonallergic beekeepers to high doses of bee venom antigens induces diminished T cell-related cutaneous late-phase swelling to bee stings in parallel with suppressed allergen-specific T cell proliferation and T helper type 1 (Th1) and Th2 cytokine secretion. After multiple bee stings, venom antigen-specific Th1 and Th2 cells show a switch toward interleukin (IL) 10-secreting type 1 T regulatory (Tr1) cells. T cell regulation continues as long as antigen exposure persists and returns to initial levels within 2 to 3 mo after bee stings. Histamine receptor 2 up-regulated on specific Th2 cells displays a dual effect by directly suppressing allergen-stimulated T cells and increasing IL-10 production. In addition, cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 and programmed death 1 play roles in allergen-specific T cell suppression. In contrast to its role in mucosal allergen tolerance, transforming growth factor beta does not seem to be an essential player in skin-related allergen tolerance. Thus, rapid switch and expansion of IL-10-producing Tr1 cells and the use of multiple suppressive factors represent essential mechanisms in immune tolerance to a high dose of allergens in nonallergic individuals.