FASEB JOURNAL, vol.17, no.9, pp.1026-1035, 2003 (SCI-Expanded)
T cells constitute a large population of cellular infiltrate in atopic/allergic inflammation and a dysregulated, Th2-biased peripheral immune response appears to be an important pathogenetic factor. In atopic dermatitis, circulating cutaneous lymphocyte-associated antigen-bearing (CLA(+)) CD45RO(+) T cells with skin-specific homing property represent an activated memory/effector T cell subset. They express high levels of Fas and Fas ligand and undergo activation-induced apoptosis. The freshly purified (CLA(+)) CD45RO(+) T cells of atopic individuals display distinct features of in vivo-triggered apoptosis such as procaspase degradation and active caspase-8 formation. In particular, the Th1 compartment of activated memory/effector T cells selectively undergoes activation-induced cell death, skewing the immune response toward surviving Th2 cells in atopic dermatitis patients. The apoptosis of circulating memory/effector T cells was confined to atopic individuals whereas non-atopic patients such as psoriasis, intrinsic-type asthma, contact dermatitis, intrinsic type of atopic dermatitis, bee venom allergic patients, and healthy controls showed no evidence for enhanced T cell apoptosis in vivo. These results define a novel mechanism for peripheral Th2 response in atopic diseases.