Whole extract or allergen-specific IgE testing has become increasingly popular in the diagnosis of peanut allergy. However, much less is known about T cell responses in peanut allergy and how it relates to different clinical phenotypes. CD4+ T cells play a major role in the pathophysiology of peanut allergy as well as tolerance induction during oral desensitization regimens. We set out to characterize and phenotype the T cell responses and their targets in peanut sensitized patients. Using PBMC from peanut-allergic and non-allergic patients, we mapped T cell epitopes for three major peanut allergens, Ara h 1, 2 and 3 (27 from Ara h 1, 4 from Ara h 2 and 43 from Ara h 3) associated with release of IFNgamma (representative Th1 cytokine) and IL5 (representative Th2 cytokine). A pool containing 19 immunodominant peptides, selected to account for 60% of the total Ara h 1-3-specific T cell response in allergics, but only 20% in non-allergics, was shown to discriminate T cell responses in peanut-sensitized, symptomatic vs non-symptomatic individuals more effectively than peanut extract. This pool elicited positive T cell responses above a defined threshold in 12/15 sensitized, symptomatic patients, whereas in the sensitized but non-symptomatic cohort only, 4/14 reacted. The reactivity against this peptide pool in symptomatic patients was dominated by IL-10, IL-17 and to a lesser extend IL-5. For four distinct epitopes, HLA class II restrictions were determined, enabling production of tetrameric reagents. Tetramer staining in four donors (2 symptomatic, 2 non-symptomatic) revealed a trend for increased numbers of peanut epitope-specific T cells in symptomatic patients compared to non-symptomatic patients, which was associated with elevated CRTh2 expression whereas cells from non-symptomatic patients exhibited higher levels of Integrin beta7 expression. Our results demonstrate differences in T cell response magnitude, epitope specificity and phenotype between symptomatic and non-symptomatic peanut-sensitized patients. In addition to IgE reactivity, analysis of peanut-specific T cells may be useful to improve our understanding of different clinical manifestations in peanut allergy.
View details for PubMedID 30304054