Allergen-specific cytokine polarization protects Shetland ponies against Culicoides obsoletus-induced insect bite hypersensitivity

Chantal Meulenbroeks, Jaco J. van der Lugt, Nathalie M. A. van der Meide, T Willemse, Victor P. M. G. Rutten, Dietmar Zaiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The immunological mechanisms explaining development of an allergy in some individuals and not in others remain incompletely understood. Insect bite hypersensitivity (IBH) is a common, seasonal, IgE-mediated, pruritic skin disorder that affects considerable proportions of horses of different breeds, which is caused by bites of the insect Culicoides obsoletus (C. obsoletus). We investigated the allergen-specific immune status of individual horses that had either been diagnosed to be healthy or to suffer of IBH. Following intradermal allergen injection, skin biopsies were taken of IBH-affected and healthy ponies and cytokine expression was determined by RT-PCR. In addition, allergen-specific antibody titers were measured and cytokine expression of in vitro stimulated, allergen-specific CD4 T-cells was determined. 24 hrs after allergen injection, a significant increase in mRNA expression of the type-2 cytokine IL-4 was observed in the skin of IBH-affected Shetland ponies. In the skin of healthy ponies, however, an increase in IFNγ mRNA expression was found. Analysis of allergen-specific antibody titers revealed that all animals produced allergen-specific antibodies, and allergen-specific stimulation of CD4 T-cells revealed a significant higher percentage of IFNγ-expressing CD4 T-cells in healthy ponies compared to IBH-affected ponies. These data indicate that horses not affected by IBH, in contrast to the so far established dogma, are not immunologically ignorant but have a Th1-skewed allergen-specific immune response that appears to protect against IBH-associated symptoms. To our knowledge this is the first demonstration of a natural situation, in which an allergen-specific immune skewing is protective in an allergic disorder.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0122090
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2015


Dive into the research topics of 'Allergen-specific cytokine polarization protects Shetland ponies against Culicoides obsoletus-induced insect bite hypersensitivity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this