Methods: Thirty-five patients with allergic asthma and thirty-five healthy control children were selected. Asthma was diagnosed according to the criteria of Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA). Their allergy status was confirmed by the presence of dust mite specific IgE via ImmunoCAP. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) were obtained from study and control groups. Flow cytometry was used to detect Th17 and Treg cells using specific antibodies (CD4, CD25, Foxp3 and IL-17A). Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (QRT-PCR) was used to measure the expression of Notch1 mRNA. The correlations among Notch1 mRNA expression, the percentage of Th17 cells, and Th17/Treg ratio were calculated.
Results: Th17 and Treg cells were significantly increased and decreased, respectively, in children with allergic asthma than in healthy control (P<0.01). At the same time, mRNA level of Notch1 was elevated in children with allergic asthma comparing to healthy controls (P<0.01). The mRNA expression of Notch1 was positively correlated with the percentage of Th17 cells (r = 0.775, P<0.01) and Th17/Treg ratio (r = 0.698, P<0.01).
Conclusions: Children with allergic asthma showed dysregulation of Th17/Treg cells in peripheral blood. Such change is accompanied with overexpression of Notch1, indicating the role of Notch signaling pathway in allergic asthma of children.