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TBX21 and HLX1 Polymorphisms Influence Cytokine Secretion at Birth
Published: Monday, January 30, 2012
Author: Vera Isabel Casaca et al.

by Vera Isabel Casaca, Sabina Illi, Kathrin Suttner, Isolde Schleich, Nikolaus Ballenberger, Elizabeth Klucker, Elif Turan, Erika von Mutius, Michael Kabesch, Bianca Schaub


TBX21 (T cell specific T-box transcription factor) and HLX1 (H.20-like homeobox 1) are crucial transcription factors of TH1-cells, inducing their differentiation and suppressing TH2 commitment, particularly important for early life immune development. This study investigated the influence of TBX21 and HLX1 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), which have previously been shown to be associated with asthma, on TH1/TH2 lineage cytokines at birth.

Methods and Findings

Cord blood mononuclear cells (CBMCs) of 200 neonates were genotyped for two TBX21 and three HLX1 SNPs. CBMCs were stimulated with innate (Lipid A, LpA; Peptidoglycan, Ppg), adaptive stimuli (house dust mite Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus 1, Derp1) or mitogen (phytohemagglutinin, PHA). Cytokines, T-cells and mRNA expression of TH1/TH2-related genes were assessed. Atopic diseases during the first 3 years of life were assessed by questionnaire answered by the parents.Carriers of TBX21 promoter SNP rs17250932 and HLX1 promoter SNP rs2738751 showed reduced or trendwise reduced (p=0.07) IL-5, IL-13 and TNF-a secretion after LpA-stimulation. Carriers of HLX1 SNP rs2738751 had lower IL-13 levels following Ppg-stimulation (p?=?0.08). Carriers of HLX1 exon 1 SNP rs12141189 showed increased IL-5 (LpA, p?=?0.007; Ppg, p?=?0.10), trendwise increased IL-13 (LpA), higher GM-CSF (LpA/Ppg, p=0.05) and trendwise decreased IFN-? secretion (Derp1+LpA-stimulation, p?=?0.1). Homozygous carriers of HLX1 promoter SNP rs3806325 showed increased IL-13 and IL-6 (unstimulated, p=0.03). In carriers of TBX21 intron 3 SNP rs11079788 no differences in cytokine secretion were observed. mRNA expression of TH1/TH2-related genes partly correlated with cytokines at protein level. TBX21 SNP rs11079788 carriers developed less symptoms of atopic dermatitis at 3 years of age (p?=?0.03).


Polymorphisms in TBX21 and HLX1 influenced primarily IL-5 and IL-13 secretion after LpA-stimulation in cord blood suggesting that genetic variations in the transcription factors essential for the TH1-pathway may contribute to modified TH2-immune responses already early in life. Further follow-up of the cohort is required to study the polymorphisms' relevance for immune-mediated diseases such as childhood asthma.