CD137 deficiency does not affect development of airway inflammation or respiratory tolerance induction in murine models.
ABSTRACT The co-stimulatory molecule CD137 (4-1BB) plays a crucial role in the development and persistence of asthma, characterized by eosinophilic airway inflammation, mucus hypersecretion, airway hyperreactivity, increased T helper type 2 (Th2) cytokine production and serum immunoglobulin (Ig)E levels. We have shown previously that application of an agonistic CD137 monoclonal antibody (mAb) prevented and even reversed an already established asthma phenotype. In the current study we investigated whether deficiency of the CD137/CD137L pathway affects the development of allergic airway inflammation or the opposite immune reaction of respiratory tolerance. CD137⁻/⁻ and wild-type (WT) mice were sensitized and challenged with the model allergen ovalbumin (OVA) and analysed for the presence of allergic disease parameters (allergy protocol). Some animals were tolerized by mucosal application of OVA prior to transferring the animals to the allergy protocol to analyse the effect of CD137 loss on tolerance induction (tolerance protocol). Eosinophilic airway inflammation, mucus hypersecretion, Th2 cytokine production and elevated allergen-specific serum IgE levels were increased equally in CD137⁻/⁻ and WT mice. Induction of tolerance resulted in comparable protection from the development of an allergic phenotype in both mouse strains. In addition, no significant differences could be identified in CD4⁺, CD8⁺ and forkhead box protein 3 (FoxP3⁺) regulatory T cells, supporting the conclusion that CD137⁻/⁻ mice show equal Th2-mediated immune responses compared to WT mice. Taken together, CD137⁻/⁻ mice and WT mice develop the same phenotype in a murine model of Th2-mediated allergic airway inflammation and respiratory tolerance.