Tick bites have been shown to transmit a novel form of severe food allergy, the galactose-α-1,3-galactose (α-Gal) syndrome (AGS). Cellular responses to α-Gal in patients with AGS have, to date, not been thoroughly scrutinized. Therefore, we investigated T and B cell proliferation, activation, and cytokine profiles in response to tick protein extract (TE) and α-Gal-free TE in patients with AGS and in healthy controls. T and B cells from both patients and controls proliferated in response to TE, but significantly more in patients with AGS. B cell proliferation, but not T cell proliferation, in patients with AGS was reduced by removing α-Gal from the TE. In addition, TE induced a clear Th2 cytokine profile in patients with AGS. Expression of CD23 by B cells correlated only to T cell proliferation. However, both B cell proliferation and CD23 expression were reduced when CD40L and IL-4 were blocked. A large portion of the IgG1 and IgE antibodies binding TE in patients with AGS were directed against the α-Gal epitope. We have, for what we believe to be the first time, investigated T and B cell responses to α-Gal carrying tick proteins in patients with AGS, which will be essential for the understanding of the immune response against an allergenic carbohydrate transmitted by ticks.
Danijela Apostolovic, Jeanette Grundström, Mensiena B. Gea Kiewiet, Marija Perusko, Carl Hamsten, Maria Starkhammar, Staffan Paulie, Marianne van Hage