While the release of pollen into the air is essential for the reproduction of plants, the accidental yet inevitable uptake of pollen into human airways can cause symptoms of seasonal allergies and asthma. The symptomatic response to pollen is caused by granulocytes that produce inflammation, which is due in part to oxidative stress through the action of NADPH oxidases. The recruitment of these inflammatory granulocytes was previously thought to depend entirely on the activation of an adaptive immune response. In this issue of the JCI, Boldogh et al. demonstrate that pollens contain endogenous NADPH oxidase activity, which functions to generate local “danger signals” in nearby airway epithelium. These signals in turn trigger the early recruitment of granulocytes, even in the absence of the adaptive immune response. These findings suggest that inhibition of the pollen oxidase may provide a way to antagonize allergic inflammation at a very early step.
Darren R. Ritsick, J. David Lambeth