Pruritogenic effects of mitogen-stimulated peripheral blood mononuclear cells in atopic eczema.
Cremer B, Heimann A, Dippel E, Czarnetzki BM
The etiology of atopic pruritus is unclear and seems mostly histamine-independent. In order to investigate non-mast cells as possible sources of pruritogenic agents, peripheral blood mononuclear cells from 12 atopic eczema patients and 12 controls were incubated in vitro for 24 h with phytohemagglutinin or concanavalin A (both at 10 micrograms/ml) or with medium alone, and each subject was tested with his own cell supernatants and lysates by prick testing and by application on tape-stripped skin. Histamine (0.1%) and substance P (500 microM) were tested in comparison, and reactions were observed for up to 24 h. Cell supernatants were also analysed for their contents of several cytokines. Lymphocyte cell extracts or supernatants failed to cause symptoms in controls but induced whealing in 6 and itching in 3 patients on prick testing within 5 min, lasting for 30 min in 2 patients and persisting for 6 h in 1 patient. Histamine caused itching in all controls and in 7 patients within 5 min on prick testing, with decreasing reactivity at later times. Substance P yielded results with lower values. With all three types of test reagents, fewer subjects reacted on tape stripped skin. High levels of interleukins 2 and 6, low levels of interferon and no detectable levels of interleukin 4 and tumour necrosis factor were measured in stimulated cell supernatants and extracts, with even lower levels in subjects exhibiting skin reactivity. These findings thus provide evidence that as yet unidentified mononuclear cell products may be involved in whealing and itching associated with atopic eczema.