Glucocorticoids inhibit cytokine-mediated eosinophil survival

N. Wallen, H. Kita, D. Weiler, G. J. Gleich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

232 Scopus citations


Glucocorticoids characteristically induce eosinopenia in vivo and are effective for treating allergic and other eosinophilic disorders. We studied the effect of glucocorticoids on cytokine-induced survival of human eosinophils in vitro. Eosinophils were purified from normal or mildly atopic volunteers by Percoll density gradient and incubated for 4 days in the presence of cytokine plus steroid. Cell viabilities were determined by staining cells with fluorescein diacetate and propidium iodide. In the absence of glucocorticoids, human rIL-5 enhanced eosinophil survival in a dose-dependent manner, from 22 fM for a minimal effect to 2200 fM for maximal effect. When eosinophils were cultured with a submaximal concentration of rIL-5 (220 fM), dexamethasone, methylprednisolone, and hydrocortisone inhibited eosinophil survival in a dose-dependent manner. Inhibition was time-dependent and required at least 2 days' exposure of eosinophils to dexamethasone. Dexamethasone, methylprednisolone, and hydrocortisone at 1000 nM inhibited survival by 88 ± 2, 66 ± 9 and 37 ± 7%. In contrast, estradiol and testosterone (1000 nM) had no effect on eosinophil survival. When eosinophils were incubated with varying concentrations of human rIL-5 and 1000 nM dexamethasone, survival inhibition was reduced at higher concentrations of human rIL-5, and completely abolished by human rIL-5 23,000 fM. Human recombinant granulocyte-macrophage CSF, human rIL-3, and human rIFN-γ also enhanced eosinophil survival in a dose-dependent manner and dexamethasone (1000 nM) strongly inhibited cell survival when submaximal concentrations of these cytokines were used. The effects of dexamethasone were reversed by higher concentrations of granulocyte-macrophage CSF (10 U/ml) and IL-3 (3 ng/ml). However, even 1000 U/ml IFN-γ did not overcome dexamethasone inhibition, indicating a difference between the mechanism of eosinophil survival induced by IFN-γ and other cytokines. These results suggest that glucocorticoids exert a direct, inhibitory effect on eosinophil survival, which may be important in the treatment of allergic and other eosinophilic disorders. Antagonism of this effect by higher amounts of cytokine may be a mechanism for glucocorticoid resistance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3490-3495
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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