Linking allergy to autoimmune disease

Type I allergy is a classical Th2-driven hypersensitivity disease based on IgE recognition of environmental allergens. Exposure of allergic individuals to exogenous allergens leads to immediate type inflammation caused by degranulation of mast cells via IgE-allergen immune complexes and the release of inflammatory mediators, proteases and pro-inflammatory cytokines. However, allergic inflammation can occur and persist in the absence of exposure to exogenous allergens and might paradoxically resemble a Th1-mediated chronic inflammatory reaction. We summarize evidence supporting the view that autoimmune mechanisms might contribute to these processes. IgE recognition of autoantigens might augment allergic inflammation in the absence of exogenous allergen exposure. Moreover, autoantigens that activate Th1-immune responses could contribute to chronic inflammation in allergy, thus linking allergy to autoimmunity.