Grass-specific CD4+ T-cells exhibit varying degrees of cross-reactivity, implications for allergen-specific immunotherapy

Archila LD, DeLong JH, Wambre E, James EA, Robinson DM, Kwok WW.
Clin Exp Allergy. 2 014. 986-998(44)



Conceptually, allergic responses may involve cross-reactivity by antibodies or T-cells. While IgE cross-reactivity amongst grass pollen allergens has been observed, cross-reactivity at the allergen-specific T-cell level has been less documented. Identification of the patterns of cross-reactivity may improve our understanding, allowing optimization of better immunotherapy strategies.


We use Phleum pratense as model for the studying of cross-reactivity at the allergen-specific CD4+ T cell level amongst DR04:01 restricted Pooideae grass pollen T-cell epitopes.


After In vitro culture of blood mononucleated cells from Grass-pollen allergic subjects with specific Pooideae antigenic epitopes, dual tetramer staining with APC-labeled DR04:01/Phleum pratense tetramers and PE-labeled DR04:01/Pooideae grass homolog tetramers was assessed to identify cross-reactivity amongst allergen-specific DR04:01-restricted T-cells in 6 subjects. Direct ex vivo staining enabled the comparison of frequency and phenotype of different Pooideae grass pollen reactive T-cells. Intracellular cytokine staining (ICS) assays were also used to examine phenotypes of these T-cells.


T-cells with various degree of cross reactive profiles could be detected. Poa p 1 97-116, Lol p 1 221-240, Lol p 5a 199-218, and Poa p 5a 199-218 were identified as minimally-cross-reactive T-cell epitopes that do not show cross reactivity to Phl p 1 and Phl p 5a epitopes. Ex vivo tetramer staining assays demonstrated T-cells that recognized these minimally-cross reactive T-cell epitopes are present in Grass-pollen allergic subjects.


Our results suggest that not all Pooideae grass epitopes with sequence homology are cross-reactive. Non-cross reactive T-cells with comparable frequency, phenotype and functionality to Phl p-specific T-cells, suggest that a multiple allergen system should be considered for immunotherapy instead of a mono allergen system.