Molecular “fingerprinting” finds altered levels of sensor proteins in asthmatics

AllerGen researchers at McMaster University have found that people with mild allergic asthma have altered levels of “sensor” proteins that defend against infection and disease.

Toll-like like receptors (TLRs) are proteins that play a key role in detecting and responding to invading pathogens. Once activated, TLRs stimulate both the innate and the adaptive arms of the body’s immune system to respond to the threat.

The study, which was published in March 2017 in Clinical and Experimental Allergy, compared the TLR levels of 11 subjects with mild allergic asthma with the TLR levels of 10 healthy controls. It found that in asthmatics, levels of certain TLR clusters are significantly lower than in individuals without asthma.

Dr.Judah Denburg led the research. Dr. Denburg is a professor in the Department of Medicine and the William J. Walsh Chair in Medicine of the Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster, as well as Scientific Director of the Allergy, Genes and Environment (AllerGen) Network.

“Using molecular phenotyping or ‘fingerprinting’ of specialized blood cells called hemopoietic progenitors, our team previously showed that TLR expression and responses in cord blood from ‘high allergy risk’ infants are altered compared to ‘low allergy risk’ infants,” said Dr. Denburg. “Our current study shows that this phenomenon persists in adulthood, in that TLR expression is also decreased in the adult allergic asthmatic population.”

The findings support the concept that allergy is a systemic disease, and they may help to advance the development of novel therapies and diagnostics for allergic diseases and asthma.

AllerGen researchers Drs Paul O’Byrne and Patrick Mitchell, as well as former AllerGen HQP Drs Damian Tworek and Seamus O’Byrne, were study co-authors.