BACKGROUND: Allergen-specific IgE antibodies are responsible for the pathogenesis of type I hypersensitivity. In patients with allergy, IgE titers can persist in the apparent absence of allergen for years. Seasonal allergen exposure triggers clinical symptoms and enhances allergen-specific IgE. Whether allergen-specific plasma cells originating from seasonal allergen exposures can survive and become long-lived is so far unclear.
OBJECTIVE: We analyzed the localization and lifetimes of allergen-specific IgE-secreting, IgA-secreting, and IgG(1)-secreting plasma cells after allergen inhalation in an ovalbumin-induced murine model of allergic asthma.
METHODS: Ovalbumin-specific IgG(1)-secreting, IgA-secreting, and IgE-secreting cells in lungs, spleen, and bone marrow were isolated and tested for antibody secretion by the ELISpot technique. Longevity of ovalbumin-specific plasma cells was determined by cyclophosphamide treatment, which depletes proliferating plasmablasts but leaves plasma cells untouched. Ovalbumin aerosol-induced infiltrates in lungs were localized by confocal microscopy.
RESULTS: Long-lived ovalbumin-specific plasma cells were generated by systemic sensitization and survived in bone marrow and spleen, maintaining systemic ovalbumin-specific titers of IgG, IgA, and IgE. On inhalation of ovalbumin-containing aerosol, sensitized mice developed airway inflammation and more ovalbumin-specific IgG(1)-secreting, IgA-secreting, and IgE-secreting cells in the lungs and in secondary lymphoid organs. These plasma cells joined the pool of ovalbumin-specific plasma cells in the bone marrow and became long-lived-that is, they are resistant to cyclophosphamide. Termination of ovalbumin inhalation depleted ovalbumin-specific plasma cells from the lungs, but they persisted in spleen and bone marrow.
CONCLUSION: Our results show that inhalation of aerosolized allergen generates long-lived, allergen-specific IgG(1)-secreting, IgA-secreting, and IgE-secreting plasma cells that survive cytostatic treatment.