Transcriptional Profiling of Egg Allergy and Relationship to Disease Phenotype.
BACKGROUND: Egg allergy is one of the most common food allergies of childhood. There is a lack of information on the immunologic basis of egg allergy beyond the role of IgE.
OBJECTIVE: To use transcriptional profiling as a novel approach to uncover immunologic processes associated with different phenotypes of egg allergy.
METHODS: Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were obtained from egg-allergic children who were defined as reactive (BER) or tolerant (BET) to baked egg, and from food allergic controls (AC) who were egg non-allergic. PBMCs were stimulated with egg white protein. Gene transcription was measured by microarray after 24 h, and cytokine secretion by multiplex assay after 5 days.
RESULTS: The transcriptional response of PBMCs to egg protein differed between BER and BET versus AC subjects. Compared to the AC group, the BER group displayed increased expression of genes associated with allergic inflammation as well as corresponding increased secretion of IL-5, IL-9 and TNF-α. A similar pattern was observed for the BET group. Further similarities in gene expression patterns between BER and BET groups, as well as some important differences, were revealed using a novel Immune Annotation resource developed for this project. This approach identified several novel processes not previously associated with egg allergy, including positive associations with TLR4-stimulated myeloid cells and activated NK cells, and negative associations with an induced Treg signature. Further pathway analysis of differentially expressed genes comparing BER to BET subjects showed significant enrichment of IFN-α and IFN-γ response genes, as well as genes associated with virally-infected DCs.
CONCLUSIONS: Transcriptional profiling identified several novel pathways and processes that differed when comparing the response to egg allergen in BET, BER, and AC groups. We conclude that this approach is a useful hypothesis-generating mechanism to identify novel immune processes associated with allergy and tolerance to forms of egg.