Intracellular IL-4, IL-5, and IFN-γ as the main characteristic of CD4+CD30+ T cells after allergen stimulation in patients with vernal keratoconjunctivitis

Diana Magaña,1 Gustavo Aguilar,1 Marisela Linares,1 Julio Ayala-Balboa,1 Concepción Santacruz,1 Raúl Chávez,2 Sergio Estrada-Parra,3 Yonathan Garfias,2 Ricardo Lascurain,2 Maria C. Jiménez-Martínez1,2

1Department of Immunology and Research Unit, Institute of Ophthalmology “Conde de Valenciana Foundation,” México, D.F; 2Immunology Lab, Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine, National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico, D.F; 3Department of Immunology, National School of Biological Sciences, National Polytechnic Institute, Mexico, D.F

Correspondence to: Maria C Jimenez Martinez, Institute of Ophthalmology “Conde de Valenciana,” Chimalpopoca 14, Col. Obrera, C.P. 06800; Phone: +52 (55) 5421700 ext. 3212; FAX: +52(55) 54421700 ext. 3206; email:


Background: Vernal keratoconjunctivitis (VKC) is a severe form of allergic conjunctivitis, in which inflammatory infiltrates of the conjunctiva are characterized by CD3+ and CD30+ cells. Until today, the functional involvement of CD30+ T cells in VKC was unclear. Our aim was to evaluate the functional characteristics of CD30+ T cells after allergen stimulation in peripheral blood mononuclear cells obtained from patients with VKC.

Methods: Seventeen consecutive patients at the Institute of Ophthalmology with active forms of VKC were included.

Results: After allergen stimulation, we observed the frequency of CD30+ T cells increased compared with non-stimulated cells (p<0.0001). The CD30+ T cells responded to the specific allergen-inducing expression of intracellular interleukin-4 (IL-4), IL-5, and interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) compared with the CD30- T cells (p<0.0001). Increased early secretion of soluble CD30 was observed in the supernatant of the cultured cells from patients with keratoconjunctivitis, compared with healthy controls (p=0.03). Blockage with IL-4 significantly diminished CD30 frequency in the allergen-stimulated cells.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that after allergenic stimulation, CD4+CD30+ cells are the most important source of IL-4, IL-5, and IFN-γ. IL-4 acts as an activation loop that increases CD30 expression on T cells after specific stimulation. These findings suggest that CD4+CD30+ T cells are effector cells and play a significant role in the immune pathogenic response in patients with vernal keratoconjunctivitis.

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