Clinical and experimental investigations suggest that allergen-specific CD4+
T-cells, IgE and the cytokines IL-4 and IL-5 play central roles in initiating and sustaining an asthmatic response by regulating the recruitment and/or activation of airways mast cells and eosinophils.
IL-5 plays a unique role in eosinophil development and activation and has been strongly implicated in the aetiology of asthma. The present paper summarizes our recent investigations on the role of these cytokines using cytokine knockout mice and a mouse aeroallergen model. Investigations in IL-5-/-
mice indicate that this cytokine is critical for regulating aeroallergen-induced eosinophilia, the onset of lung damage and airways hyperreactivity during allergic airways inflammation. While IL-4 and allergen-specific IgE play important roles in the regulation of allergic disease, recent investigations in IL4-/-
mice suggest that allergic airways inflammation can occur via pathways which operate independently of these molecules. Activation of these IL-4 independent pathways are also intimately associated with CD4+
T-cells, IL-5 signal transduction and eosinophilic inflammation. Such IL-5 regulated pathways may also play a substantive role in the aetiology of asthma. Thus, evidence is now emerging that allergic airways disease is regulated by humoral and cell mediated processes. The central role of IL-5 in both components of allergic disease highlights the requirements for highly specific therapeutic agents which inhibit the production or action of this cytokine.