It has been proposed that T helper (Th) 2 cells play a key role in the pathogenesis of atopic dermatitis (AD) because of clinical and experimental findings including hyper IgE, eosinophilia and Th2 type cytokine overexpression, etc. In contrast, several observations such as Th1 type cytokine detection in chronic lesions and histological features resembling allergic contact dermatitis suggest that Th1 rather than Th2 cells are important for the pathogenesis of skin lesions. In order to clarify this paradox, we investigated the function of T cell clones established from AD patients. Most T cell clones induced by house dust mite antigen and interleukin (IL)-2 from peripheral blood mononuclear cells of two AD patients exhibited CD4+/ CD8-, CD45RO+/ CD45RA-, and produced high levels of IL-4 and low levels of interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) after phytohemagglutinin (PHA) (1 microg/ml) stimulation, suggesting a Th2 subtype. When stimulated with a high dose of concanavalin A (conA) (10 microg/ml), however, these clones produced high amounts of IFN-gamma. IL-4 production reached a peak 24 hours after conA (10 ,g/ml) stimulation, whereas IFN-gamma production was increased up to 48 hours after stimulation. The findings of T cell receptor (TCR) stimulation with immobilized anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody (mAb) showed that the suitable strength of TCR stimulation for IFN-y production was higher than for IL-4. Also, in the TCR stimulated condition, the peak of IFN-gamma production was later than that of IL-4. These results indicate that T cell clones which exhibited a Th2 profile under weak stimulation can produce IFN-y in the late phase of stimulation when strong stimuli are used. The results are consistent with the previous observation that IFN-gamma production prominently appears in the chronic and late phase lesions of AD.
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