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Open Access Research article

Depigmented-polymerised allergoids favour regulatory over effector T cells: enhancement by 1α, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D3

Zoe L Urry1, David F Richards1, Cheryl Black1, Maria Morales2, Jerónimo Carnés2, Catherine M Hawrylowicz1* and Douglas S Robinson3*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Allergy and Asthma, MRC and Asthma UK Centre for Mechanisms of Allergic Asthma, Guy’s Campus, King’s College London, London, UK

2 Department of Research and Development, Laboratorios Leti, Tres Cantos, Madrid, Spain

3 Leukocyte Biology Section, MRC and Asthma UK Centre for Mechanisms of Allergic Asthma, NHLI, Imperial College London, London, UK

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BMC Immunology 2014, 15:21  doi:10.1186/1471-2172-15-21

Published: 29 May 2014



Allergen immunotherapy (SIT) is the only treatment for allergic disease capable of modifying disease long term. To reduce the risk of anaphylaxis from SIT, allergen-extracts have been modified by polymerisation with glutaraldehyde to reduce IgE binding. It is suggested that these allergoid extracts also have reduced T cell activity, which could compromise clinical efficacy. Effective SIT is thought to act through regulatory T cells (Tregs) rather than activation of effector T cells. There is no published data on the activity of modified extracts on Tregs.


We compared the capacity of modified (depigmented-polymerised) versus unmodified (native) allergen extracts of grass pollen and house dust mite to stimulate proliferation/cytokine production and to modulate Treg/effector T cell frequency in cultures of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), from volunteers sensitised to both allergens in vitro. Depigmented-polymerised allergen extracts stimulated less proliferation of PBMC, and reduced effector cell numbers after 7 days in culture than did native extracts. However, the frequency of Foxp3+ Tregs in cultures were similar to those seen with native extract so that ratios of regulatory to effector T cells were significantly increased in cultures stimulated with depigmented-polymerised extracts. Addition of 1α, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 further favoured Treg, and reduced effector cytokine production, but not interleukin-10.


Depigmented-polymerised allergen extracts appear to favour Treg expansion over activation of effector T cells and this may relate to their demonstrated efficacy and safety in SIT. 1α, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 further reduces effector T cell activation by allergen extracts and may be a useful adjuvant for SIT.

Allergen extract; Depigmented-polymerised; Immunotherapy; Regulatory T cell; Vitamin D