Background: Regulatory T (Treg) cells are involved in homeostasis of immune regulation and suppression of inflammation and T-cell polarisation. Current knowledge regarding the role of Treg cells in the initiation of allergic disease is limited for both people and dogs.
Objectives: To explore the role of circulating Treg cells and their possible influencing factors, on the development of atopic dermatitis (AD).
Methods and materials: This study followed part of a birth cohort of West Highland white terrier dogs and classified them according to eventual clinical signs of AD (i.e. allergic versus healthy). The Treg phenotypes were assessed longitudinally by flow cytometry at 3, 3-12 and 12-36 months of age, and associated with development of AD. Different early life antigenic factors [endotoxins and allergens in house dust, Toxocara canis-specific immunoglobulin (Ig)E/IgG, allergen-specific and total IgE, skin microbiota] were measured at three months of age, and a possible association with Treg cell levels was assessed.
Results: The percentages of CD4+ CD25+ Foxp3+ Treg cells in healthy dogs were significantly higher at in 3-month-old (mean 4.5% healthy versus 3.3% allergic; P = 0.021) and <1-year-old (4.0% healthy versus 2.9% allergic; P = 0.028) dogs when compared to percentages of Treg cells in dogs that developed AD. There was a significantly positive correlation between the relative abundance of Lachnospiraceae on the skin and CD4+ CD25+ Foxp3+ Treg cells in puppies that became allergic (r = 0.568, P = 0.017).
Conclusion and clinical importance: Further large-scale studies are needed to identify the practical value of these findings in AD diagnosis, treatment and prevention.