Proteolytic activity accelerates the TH17/TH22 recall response to an epicutaneous protein allergen-induced TH2 response.
Epicutaneous exposure to protein allergens, such as papain, house dust mite (HDM), and ovalbumin (OVA), represents an important mode of sensitization for skin diseases including protein contact dermatitis, immunologic contact urticaria, and atopic dermatitis. These diseases are inducible by re-exposure to an allergen at both original skin sensitization and distant skin sites. In this study, we examined the serum IgE/IgG1 response, differentiation of T-helper (TH) cells, and epicutaneous TH recall response in mice pre-sensitized with protein allergens through the back skin and subsequently challenged on the ear skin. Repeated epicutaneous sensitization with allergenic proteins including papain, HDM, OVA, and protease inhibitor-treated papain, but not bovine serum albumin, induced serum allergen-specific antibody production, passive cutaneous anaphylaxis responses, and TH2 differentiation in the skin draining lymph node (DLN) cells. Sensitization with papain or HDM, which have protease activity, resulted in the differentiation of TH17 as well as TH2. In papain- or HDM-sensitized mice, a subsequent single challenge on the ear skin induced the expression of TH2 and TH17/TH22 cytokines. These results suggest that allergenic proteins induce the differentiation of TH2 in skin DLN cells and an antibody response. These findings may be useful for identifying proteins of high and low allergenic potential. Moreover, allergenic proteins containing protease activity may also differentiate TH17 and induce TH2 and TH17/TH22 recall responses at epicutaneous challenge sites. This suggests that allergen protease activity accelerates the onset of skin diseases caused by protein allergens.