Th1- and Th2-type cytokines in chronic ocular allergy

  • Andrea Leonardi
  • Iva A. Fregona
  • Mario Plebani
  • Antonio G. Secchi
  • Virginia L. Calder
Clinical Investigation



Previous reports have suggested that Th2-type cytokines are important in the pathogenesis of ocular allergic diseases. The purpose of this study is to measure levels and mRNA expression of Th1- and Th2-type cytokines in patients with active vernal keratoconjunctivitis (VKC) and atopic keratoconjunctivitis (AKC).


Tear samples and tear-isolated cells were obtained from 9 healthy participants (CT—controls), 28 VKC, and 6 AKC patients. IL-4, IL-13, and interferon gamma (IFNγ) tear levels were determined by ELISA, and IL-4 and IFNγ tear cell mRNA expression by RT-PCR. Effects of these cytokines on IL-6 and IL-8 secretion, and on ICAM-1 expression by conjunctival fibroblasts, were evaluated by ELISA and flow cytometry respectively.


Interleukin-4 tear levels were increased in VKC and AKC compared with CT, but only IFNγ significantly correlated with corneal involvement. An IL-4/13-dominant profile was found in 50% of VKC and in 17% of AKC patients, while a IFNγ -dominant profile was found in 18% of VKC and in 17% of AKC patients. IL-4 and IFNγ transcripts were detected in tear cells from 11 out of 12 VKC patients. IFNγ upregulated expression of ICAM-1 on conjunctival fibroblasts and the secretion of IL-6 and IL-8.


Although both IL-4 and IFNγ are detected in tears, only IFNγ levels correlated with disease severity and upregulated ICAM-1 on conjunctival fibroblasts, suggesting the role of IFNγ in the inflammatory phase of chronic allergic eye diseases.


Allergic conjunctivitis Tears Th2 cytokines Interferon-γ 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea Leonardi
    • 1
    • 2
  • Iva A. Fregona
    • 1
  • Mario Plebani
    • 2
  • Antonio G. Secchi
    • 1
  • Virginia L. Calder
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of NeuroscienceOphthalmology UnitPadovaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Laboratory MedicineUniversity of PaduaPaduaItaly
  3. 3.Department of Clinical OphthalmologyInstitute of Ophthalmology, UCLLondonUK

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