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Allergen interactions with epithelium

Toppila-Salmi, Sanna; Renkonen, Jutta; Joenväärä, Sakari; Mattila, Pirkko; Renkonen, Risto

Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology: February 2011 - Volume 11 - Issue 1 - p 29–32
doi: 10.1097/ACI.0b013e328342319e
Mechanisms of allergy and adult asthma: Edited by Stephen T. Holgate and J. Andrew Grant

Purpose of review Allergies are a global health problem with rapidly increasing prevalence but still lacking pathogenetic knowledge or optimal treatment. The objective is to add to the conventional thinking that allergies are caused by overactive, mainly T-cell-mediated, immunological responses and thus to raise the putative role of altered epithelial functions.

Recent findings Birch pollen allergen was rapidly and actively transported through the respiratory epithelium via caveolar-dependent mechanisms only in patients allergic to birch pollen but not their healthy controls. Transcriptomic analyses showed that whereas healthy individuals raised a strong epithelial response after intranasal allergen challenge, the allergic patients had a reduced response. Thus allergies could also be due to hyporeactive responses on the epithelial level.

Summary Epithelium has emerged as an active and complex organ with mechanical, biochemical and immunological functions. The increasing awareness that epithelium interacts actively with allergens might provide new targets for the prevention and management of allergy.

aTransplantation Laboratory & Infection Biology Research Program, Haartman Institute, University of Helsinki & HUSLAB, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki, Finland

bDepartment of Otorhinolaryngology, University of Tampere and Department of Eye, Ear and Oral Diseases, Tampere University Hospital, Tampere, Finland

Correspondence to Risto Renkonen, Transplantation Laboratory, Haartman Institute, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland Tel: +358 9 1912 5111; e-mail:

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