The objective of this study was to investigate the contribution of secondary lymphoid organs in the generation and maintenance of experimental allergic airway inflammation. We employed a previously reported murine model of respiratory mucosal allergic sensitization, induced by repeated aerosolizations of ovalbumin in the context of a GM-CSF airway environment. We executed this protocol in wild-type (WT) and lymphotoxin-α–deficient mice (LTα-KO) mice, which are devoid of lymph nodes (LNs) and possess rudimentary spleen structures. Despite the lack of pulmonary LNs draining the airway compartment, LTα-KO mice were fully capable of mounting a robust inflammatory response in the airways, consisting of Th2 polarized CD4+ T cells and eosinophils. This was accompanied by IL-5, IL-13, and IFN-γ production by splenocytes and generation of ovalbumin-specific serum IgE. Exposure to the same antigen 7 weeks after complete resolution of airway inflammation once again induced a Th2 polarized infiltrate, demonstrating intact immunological memory. To investigate inherent plasticity in establishing antigen-specific immunity, mice were splenectomized before sensitization. Allergic sensitization was completely abrogated in splenectomized LTα-KO mice, compared with eusplenic LTα-KO controls. These data demonstrate that secondary lymphoid organs, either LN or spleen, are essential for the generation of allergic airway responses.
Beata U. Gajewska, David Alvarez, Mariana Vidric, Susanna Goncharova, Martin R. Stämpfli, Anthony J. Coyle, José-Carlos Gutierrez-Ramos, Manel Jordana