In the mucosal immune system, resident dendritic cells are specialized for priming Th2-polarized immunity, whereas the Ag-presenting activity of macrophages has been linked with the development of Th1 phenotype. As an immune switch toward Th1 can protect against Th2-mediated allergic response, this study investigated the capacity of lung macrophages to stimulate Th1 responses during the secondary exposure to inhaled allergen, thereby suppressing Th2-mediated allergic airway inflammation in a murine model of allergic asthma. Following airway macrophage depletion in OVA-sensitized mice, lung T cells defaulted to a phenotype that produced less Th1 (IFN-γ) and more Th2 (IL-4 and IL-5) cytokines, leading to more severe airway hyperreactivity and inflammation after intranasal Ag challenge. After OVA pulsing and adoptive transfer, lung macrophages selectively promoted a Th1 response in Ag-sensitized recipients and did not induce pulmonary eosinophilia. By contrast, OVA pulsing and adoptive transfer of a lung cell preparation, consisting of dendritic cells, B cells, and macrophages, promoted a Th2 response with an associated inflammatory response that was suppressed when macrophages were present and pretreated with IFN-γ, but exacerbated when macrophages were depleted before IFN-γ treatment. In addition, Th1-promoting activity of lung macropbages was not related to the autocrine production of IL-12p40. These results suggest that the Th1-promoting APC activity may be an inherent property of the lung macrophage population, and may play an important role, upon stimulation by IFN-γ, in antagonizing an ongoing Th2 immunity and Th2-dependent allergic responses.
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