Human CD1-restricted T cell recognition of lipids from pollens

Elisabetta Agea, Anna Russano, Onelia Bistoni, Roberta Mannucci, Ildo Nicoletti, Lanfranco Corazzi, Anthony D. Postle, Gennaro De Libero, Steven A. Porcelli, Fabrizio Spinozzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

195 Scopus citations


Plant pollens are an important source of environmental antigens that stimulate allergic responses. In addition to acting as vehicles for foreign protein antigens, they contain lipids that incorporate saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, which are necessary in the reproduction of higher plants. The CD1 family of nonpolymorphic major histocompatibility complex-related molecules is highly conserved in mammals, and has been shown to present microbial and self lipids to T cells. Here, we provide evidence that pollen lipids may be recognized as antigens by human T cells through a CD1-dependent pathway. Among phospholipids extracted from cypress grains, phosphatidyl-choline and phosphatidyl-ethanolamine were able to stimulate the proliferation of T cells from cypress-sensitive subjects. Recognition of phospholipids involved multiple cell types, mostly CD4+ T cell receptor for antigen (TCR)αβ+, some CD4-CD8- TCRγδ+, but rarely Vα24i+ natural killer-T cells, and required CD1a+ and CD1d+ antigen presenting cell. The responding T cells secreted both interleukin (IL)-4 and interferon-γ, in some cases IL-10 and transforming growth factor-β, and could provide help for immunoglobulin E (IgE) production. Responses to pollen phospholipids were maximally evident in blood samples obtained from allergic subjects during pollinating season, uniformly absent in Mycobacterium tuberculosis-exposed health care workers, but occasionally seen in nonallergic subjects. Finally, allergic, but not normal subjects, displayed circulating specific IgE and cutaneous weal and flare reactions to phospholipids. JEM

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-308
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 18 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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