Evidence for epithelial cell (EC)-derived cytokines (e.g., thymic stromal lymphopoietin [TSLP]) activating human basophils remains controversial. We therefore hypothesize that ECs can directly activate basophils via cell-to-cell interaction. Basophils in medium alone or with IL-3 ± anti-IgE were coincubated with TSLP, IL-33, or IL-25. Analogous experiments cocultured basophils (1-72 h) directly with EC lines. Supernatants were tested for mediators and cytokines. Abs targeting receptors were tested for neutralizing effects. Lactic acid (pH 3.9) treatment combined with passive sensitization tested the role of IgE. Overall, IL-33 augmented IL-13 secretion from basophils cotreated with IL-3, with minimal effects on histamine and IL-4. Conversely, basophils (but not mast cells) released histamine and marked levels of IL-4/IL-13 (10-fold) when cocultured with A549 EC and IL- 3, without exogenous allergen or IgE cross-linking stimuli. The inability to detect IL-33 or TSLP, or to neutralize their activity, suggested a unique mode of basophil activation by A549 EC. Half-maximal rates for histamine (4 h) and IL-4 (5 h) secretion were slower than observed with standard IgE-dependent activation. Ig stripping combined with passive sensitization ± omalizumab showed a dependency for basophil-bound IgE, substantiated by a requirement for cell-to-cell contact, aggregation, and FcRIdependent signaling. Ayet unidentified IgE-binding lectin associated with A549 EC is implicated after discovering that LacNAc suppressed basophil activation in cocultures. These findings point to a lectin-dependent activation of basophil requiring IgE but independent of allergen or secreted cytokine. Pending further investigation, we predict this unique mode of activation is linked to inflammatory conditions whereby IgE-dependent activation of basophils occurs despite the absence of any known allergen.
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