Insect bite hypersensitivity (IBH) in horses is a seasonal, IgE-mediated,
pruritic skin disorder primarily caused by Culicoides spp.
We hypothesize that a mixed Th2/Th1-type immune status, off season, alters
into Th2-dominated immune reactivity in the skin of IBH-affected ponies in the
IBH season. season.
To study these immune response patterns Culicoides-specific IgE levels, skin
histopathology and cytokine and transcription factor mRNA expression (IL4, IL10,
IL13, IFNγ, FoxP3 and CD3ζ) in lesional and non-lesional skin of ponies affected
by IBH in the IBH season were compared with those of the same animals off
season and those in skin of healthy ponies in both seasons.
The present study revealed a significantly higher histopathology score in
lesional skin of affected ponies than in non-lesional skin and skin of healthy
ponies in the IBH season. C. obsoletus-specific IgE serum levels of ponies with
IBH were significantly higher than those in healthy ponies in both seasons.
Interestingly, C. obsoletus-specific IgE serum levels within each group were the
same in the IBH season and off season. The expression of IL4, IL13 and IFNγ
mRNA in skin biopsies in the IBH season showed a significant increase compared
to off season in both skin derived from healthy control ponies (n=14) as well as in
lesional and in non-lesional skin from IBH-affected animals (n=17). This
apparently general up-regulation of cytokine expression during the IBH season
directly correlated with an increased CD3ζ mRNA expression in the skin,
indicating an overall increased T cell influx during the summer months. The only
significant difference observed between lesional skin from IBH-affected animals
as compared to skin from healthy control animals in the IBH season was a lower
expression of IL13/CD3ζ in the affected animals. FoxP3 and IL10 levels were
unaffected, except for a lower expression of FoxP3 in healthy control skin in the
IBH season as compared to off season, In addition, the increased level of C.
obsoletus-specific IgE did not correlate with higher histological scores in LE skin.
In summary, our data indicate a general immune activation in the skin of both
healthy and IBH-affected ponies during the IBH season that potentially obscures
the Culicoides-specific immune reaction pattern, even in lesional skin of IBHaffected