The role of CD45RA T cells on allergen-dependent lymphocyte functions was analyzed in atopic patients. As compared with age-matched nonatopic controls, atopic patients exhibited a significantly (p < 0.01) increased frequency of CD45RA T cells in peripheral blood. Concentration of serum IgE correlated with increases in this T cell subset. In contrast to nonatopic controls, not only CD45RO but also CD45RA T cells from atopic patients provide help for allergen-stimulated IgE and IgA production, and they act in a synergistic fashion. Transwell coculture experiments revealed that optimal production of IgE and IgA required physical contact of CD45RA T cells with B cells. Freshly prepared and in vitro-activated CD45RO and CD45RA T cells from atopic patients showed an increased expression of CD40 ligand when compared with nonatopic individuals. In addition, CD45RA (and CD45RO) T cells from atopic individuals produced IL-4, IL-5, and IFN-gamma when stimulated with mitogens. Whereas stimulation of normal lymphocytes with tetanus Ag was followed by conversion of the CD45RA to the CD45RO phenotype, T cells from atopic donors did not acquire the CD45RO isoform to the same degree despite T cell activation. In atopic patients, addition of IL-4 to anti-CD3/anti-TCR stimulated CD45RA T cell prevented the shift towards the CD45RO phenotype. These data indicate that a subset of CD45RA T cells plays a unique role as effector T cells regulating IgE and IgA production in atopic patients.

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