Although IL-3 is commonly recognized for its growth factor-like activity, in vitro studies have long demonstrated a unique capacity for this cytokine to also augment the proinflammatory properties and phenotype of human basophils. In particular, basophils secrete mediators that are hallmarks in allergic disease, including vasoactive amines (e.g., histamine), lipid metabolites (e.g., leukotriene C4), and cytokines (e.g., IL-4/IL-13), which are all markedly enhanced with IL-3 pretreatment. This priming phenomenon is observed in response to both IgE-dependent and IgE-independent stimulation. Additionally, IL-3 directly activates basophils for IL-13 secretion and enhanced CD69 expression, two markers that are elevated in allergic subjects. Lymphocytes are commonly thought to be the source of the IL-3 that primes for these basophil responses. However, we demonstrate herein for the first time that basophils themselves rapidly produce IL-3 (within 4 h) in response to IgE-dependent activation. More importantly, our findings definitively show that basophils rapidly bind and utilize the IL-3 they produce, as evidenced by functional and phenotypic activity that is inhibited in the presence of neutralizing anti-IL-3 receptor (CD123) Abs. We predict that autocrine IL-3 activity resulting from low-level IgE/FcεRI cross-linking by specific allergen represents an important mechanism behind the hyperreactive nature of basophils that has long been observed in allergic disease.
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