Reduced mouse allergen is associated with epigenetic changes in regulatory genes, but not mouse sensitization, in asthmatic children

Chronic exposure to mouse allergen may contribute greatly to the inner-city asthma burden. We hypothesized that reducing mouse allergen exposure may modulate the immunopathology underlying symptomatic pediatric allergic asthma, and that this occurs through epigenetic regulation. To test this hypothesis, we studied a cohort of mouse sensitized, persistent asthmatic inner-city children undergoing mouse allergen-targeted integrated pest management (IPM) vs education in a randomized controlled intervention trial. We found that decreasing mouse allergen exposure, but not cockroach, was associated with reduced FOXP3 buccal DNA promoter methylation, but this was unrelated to mouse specific IgE production. This finding suggests that the environmental epigenetic regulation of an immunomodulatory gene may occur following changing allergen exposures in some highly exposed cohorts. Given the clinical and public health importance of inner-city pediatric asthma and the potential impact of environmental interventions, further studies will be needed to corroborate changes in epigenetic regulation following changing exposures over time, and determine their impact on asthma morbidity in susceptible children.

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