Background: Multiple regulatory mechanisms have been identified employing conventional hypothesis-driven approaches as contributing to allergen-specific immunotherapy outcomes, but understanding of how these integrate to maintain immunological homeostasis is incomplete. Objective: To explore the potential for unbiased systems-level gene co-expression network analysis to advance understanding of immunotherapy mechanisms. Methods: We profiled genome-wide allergen-induced Th-cell responses prospectively during 24 months subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT) in 25 rhinitis, documenting changes in immunoinflammatory pathways and associated co-expression networks and their relationships to symptom scores out to 36 months. Results: Prior to immunotherapy, mite-induced Th-cell response networks involved multiple discrete co-expression modules including those related to Th2-, type1 IFN-, inflammation- and FOXP3/IL2-associated signalling. A signature comprising 109 genes correlated with symptom scores, and these mapped to cytokine signalling/T-cell activation-associated pathways, with upstream drivers including hallmark Th1/Th2- and inflammation-associated genes. Reanalysis after 3.5 months SCIT updosing detected minimal changes to pathway/upstream regulator profiles despite 32.5% symptom reduction; however, network analysis revealed underlying merging of FOXP3/IL2—with inflammation—and Th2-associated modules. By 12 months SCIT, symptoms had reduced by 41% without further significant changes to pathway/upstream regulator or network profiles. Continuing SCIT to 24 months stabilized symptoms at 47% of baseline, accompanied by upregulation of the type1 IFN-associated network module and its merging into the Th2/FOXP3/IL2/inflammation module. Conclusions: Subcutaneous immunotherapy stimulates progressive integration of mite-induced Th cell–associated Th2-, FOXP3/IL2-, inflammation- and finally type1 IFN-signalling subnetworks, forming a single highly integrated co-expression network module, maximizing potential for stable homeostatic control of allergen-induced Th2 responses via cross-regulation. Th2-antagonistic type1 IFN signalling may play a key role in stabilizing clinical effects of SCIT.
|Journal||Allergy: European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology|
|Publication status||E-pub ahead of print - 17 Mar 2020|