Background: Recent data suggested that non-gastrointestinal exposure can lead to sensitisation to food allergens. We thus assessed the immune impact of respiratory or cutaneous exposure to peanut proteins on non-altered epithelium and investigated the effect of such pre-exposure on subsequent oral administration of peanut. Methods: BALB/cJ mice were exposed to purified Ara h 1 or to a non-defatted roasted peanut extract (PE) by simple deposit of allergens solutions on non-altered skin or in the nostrils. Exposures were performed 6 times at weekly intervals. Pre-exposed mice then received intra-gastric administrations of PE alone or in the presence of the Th2 mucosal adjuvant cholera toxin (CT). The specific humoral and cellular immune response was assessed throughout the protocol. Results: Both cutaneous and respiratory exposures led to the production of specific IgG1. Local and systemic IL-5 and IL-13 production were also evidenced, demonstrating activation of specific Th2 cells. This effect was dose-dependent and most efficient via the respiratory route. Moreover, these pre-exposures led to the production of specific IgE antibodies after gavage with PE, whatever the presence of CT. Conclusions: Cutaneous or respiratory exposures to peanut induce Th2 priming in mice. Moreover, pre-exposures promote further sensitisation via the oral route without the use of CT; this proposes a new adjuvant-free experimental model of sensitisation to food that may reflect a realistic exposure pattern in infants. These results also suggest that non-gastrointestinal peanut exposure should be minimised in high-risk infants, even those with non-altered skin, to potentially reduce allergic sensitisation to this major food allergen.

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