BACKGROUND: Cow's milk allergy (CMA) is characterized by hypersensitivity against casein or whey, affecting 2.5% of young infants. The pathogenesis of CMA involves IgE as well as non-IgE-mediated reactions and clinical symptoms are found in the skin, lungs and gastrointestinal tract. In this study, local and systemic immunopathology was determined in whey- or casein-allergic mice.
METHODS: Mice were orally sensitized with casein or whey using cholera toxin as an adjuvant. Serum immunoglobulins and the acute allergic skin reaction (ear swelling 1 h after intradermal allergen challenge) were determined to reveal systemic hypersensitivity. Furthermore, pathophysiological changes were assessed within the intestine.
RESULTS: An acute allergic skin reaction was induced in both whey- and casein-sensitized mice. In these mice, whey-specific IgE, IgG(1), IgG(2a) and casein-specific IgG(1) levels were found to be increased. In addition, the serum mouse mast cell protease-1 (mMCP-1) concentration was enhanced, reflecting mast cell degranulation. Indeed, the number of mMCP-1-positive mast cells within the colon was diminished in both whey- and casein-sensitized mice. Only in casein-sensitized mice isometric contraction of the colon was reduced, reflecting motility alterations.
CONCLUSION: Mice, orally sensitized against casein or whey, revealed an allergen-specific acute allergic skin reaction. In casein-sensitized mice, hypocontractility of the colon reflected pathophysiological changes within the intestine. Allergen-induced ear swelling and intestinal contractility changes are novel parameters in animal models of CMA which may add to the search for new therapeutic strategies to relieve symptoms of CMA.