IL-17, which is preferentially produced by Th17 cells, is important for host defense against pathogens and is also involved in the development of autoimmune and allergic disorders. Antibody (Ab) production was shown to be impaired in IL-17-deficient mice, suggesting that IL-17 may promote B cell activation and direct secretion of Ab. However, the precise role of IL-17 in Ab production by B cells remains unclear. In the present study, we found constitutive expression of IL-17R in murine splenic B cells. Nevertheless, IL-17, IL-17F or IL-25 alone could not induce Ab production by B cells even in the presence of agonistic anti-CD40 Ab. IL-17 also could not affect IFN-γ-, IL-4- or TGF-β1-mediated Ig class-switching. Furthermore, in cocultures of B cells and IL-17−/− CD4+ T cells or IL-17−/− Th17 cells, IL-17 deficiency did not influence Ab production by B cells in vitro, suggesting that Th17 cell-derived IL-17 was not required for B cell Ab production through T-B cell interaction in vitro. Thus, in vivo, IL-17 may be indirectly involved in Ab production by enhancing production of B cell activator(s) by other immune cells.
interleukin-17; Th17 cells; B cells; antibody production
TSLP is a type 1 cytokine that contributes to lymphopoiesis and the development of asthma and atopic dermatitis. TSLP acts on multiple lineages, including dendritic cells (DCs), T cells, NKT cells, eosinophils, and mast cells, mediating proliferation and survival, and linking innate and adaptive immune responses. TSLP is produced by a range of cells, including epithelial cells, fibroblasts, stromal cells, and keratinocytes. DCs are important primary targets of TSLP, and we now unexpectedly demonstrate that DCs also produce TSLP in response to Toll-like receptor (TLR) stimulation and that this is augmented by IL-4. Moreover, we demonstrate that when mice are challenged with house dust-mite (HDM) extract, lung CD11c+ DCs express TSLP mRNA at an even higher level than epithelial cells. These data suggest that DCs not only respond to TSLP but also are a source of TSLP during pathogen and/or allergen encounter.
Long-lived plasma cells that reside in the bone marrow constitutively produce antibody in the absence of antigen and are the cellular basis of durable humoral immunity. The generation of these long-lived plasma cells depends upon a series of highly orchestrated interactions between antigen-specific CD4 T cells and B cells and the formation of germinal centers (GCs). In this study, we have examined the role of the cytokine interleukin-21 (IL-21) in regulating humoral immunity during acute viral infections. Using IL-21 receptor-deficient (IL-21R−/−) mice, we found that virus-specific CD4 T cells were generated after infection with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) and that these CD4 T cells differentiated into T follicular helper (TFH)-like cells in the absence of IL-21 signaling. There was also no defect in the formation of GCs, although after day 15 these GCs disappeared faster in IL-21R−/− mice than in wild-type mice. Isotype switching and the initial LCMV-specific IgG response were normal in IL-21R−/− mice. However, these mice exhibited a profound defect in generating long-lived plasma cells and in sustaining antibody levels over time. Similar results were seen after infection of IL-21R−/− mice with vesicular stomatitis virus and influenza virus. Using chimeric mice containing wild-type or IL-21R−/− CD4 T cells and B cells, we showed that both B and CD4 T cells need IL-21 signaling for generating long-term humoral immunity. Taken together, our results highlight the importance of IL-21 in humoral immunity to viruses.
CD14 is a monocytic differentiation antigen that regulates innate immune responses to pathogens. Here, we show that murine Cd14 SNPs regulate the length of Cd14 mRNA and CD14 protein translation efficiency, and consequently the basal level of soluble CD14 (sCD14) and type I IFN production by murine macrophages. This has substantial downstream consequences for the innate immune response; the level of expression of at least 40 IFN-responsive murine genes was altered by this mechanism. We also observed that there was substantial variation in the length of human CD14 mRNAs and in their translation efficiency. sCD14 increased cytokine production by human dendritic cells (DCs), and sCD14-primed DCs augmented human CD4 T cell proliferation. These findings may provide a mechanism for exploring the complex relationship between CD14 SNPs, serum sCD14 levels, and susceptibility to human infectious and allergic diseases.
Interleukin-15 (IL-15) and IL-2 possess distinct immunological functions despite both signaling through IL-2Rβ and the common cytokine receptor γ-chain, γc, We find that in the IL-15—IL-15Rα—IL-2Rβ—γc quaternary complex structure, IL-15 heterodimerizes IL-2Rβ and γc identically to the IL-2—IL-2Rα—IL-2Rβ—γc complex, despite differing receptor-binding chemistries. IL-15Rα dramatically increases the affinity of IL-15 for IL-2Rβ, and this allostery is required for IL-15 trans-signaling versus IL-2 cis-signaling. Consistent with the identical IL-2Rβ—γc dimer geometry, IL-2 and IL-15 exhibited similar signaling properties in lymphocytes, with any differences resulting from disparate receptor affinities. Thus, IL-15 and IL-2 induce similar signals, and the cytokine-specificity of IL-2Rα versus IL-15Rα determines cellular responsiveness. These results provide important new insights for specific development of IL-15-versus IL-2-based immunotherapeutics.
Foxp3+ regulatory T (Treg) cells are essential for the maintenance of immune homeostasis and tolerance. During viral infections, Treg cells can limit the immunopathology resulting from excessive inflammation, yet potentially inhibit effective antiviral T cell responses and promote virus persistence. We report here that the fast-replicating LCMV strain Docile triggers a massive expansion of the Treg population that directly correlates with the size of the virus inoculum and its tendency to establish a chronic, persistent infection. This Treg cell proliferation was greatly enhanced in IL-21R−/− mice and depletion of Treg cells partially rescued defective CD8+ T cell cytokine responses and improved viral clearance in some but not all organs. Notably, IL-21 inhibited Treg cell expansion in a cell intrinsic manner. Moreover, experimental augmentation of Treg cells driven by injection of IL-2/anti-IL-2 immune complexes drastically impaired the functionality of the antiviral T cell response and impeded virus clearance. As a consequence, mice became highly susceptible to chronic infection following exposure to low virus doses. These findings reveal virus-driven Treg cell proliferation as potential evasion strategy that facilitates T cell exhaustion and virus persistence. Furthermore, they suggest that besides its primary function as a direct survival signal for antiviral CD8+ T cells during chronic infections, IL-21 may also indirectly promote CD8+ T cell poly-functionality by restricting the suppressive activity of infection-induced Treg cells.
T cell exhaustion represents a state of T cell dysfunction associated with clinically relevant diseases, such as persistent viral infections or cancer. Although the molecular signature of exhausted T cells has been characterized in detail at the functional and transcriptional level, the immunological mechanisms that lead to T cell exhaustion during chronic infections remain poorly understood. Our present study reports two major findings that illustrate a pathway that contributes to T cell exhaustion during viral infection, and indicate its modulation by both, the pathogen and the host. First, we show that a persistence-inducing virus triggers the massive proliferation of Foxp3+ regulatory T (Treg) cells and demonstrate the potential of Treg cells to promote T cell exhaustion and chronic infection. Second, we identify IL-21 as a crucial host factor that antagonizes this virus-driven expansion of the Treg population in a cell intrinsic manner independent of IL-2. Thus, in addition to its known pre-dominant direct positive effects on antiviral T cells, IL-21 can also alleviate the suppressive activity of Treg cells. Together, these results suggest enhanced Treg cell responses as a mechanism of immune evasion that could be therapeutically targeted with IL-21.
The AP-1 transcription factor Batf3 is required for homeostatic development of CD8α+ classical dendritic cells that prime CD8 T-cell responses against intracellular pathogens. Here, we identify an alternative, Batf3-independent pathway for their development operating during infection with intracellular pathogens mediated by the cytokines IL-12 and IFN-γ. This alternative pathway results from molecular compensation for Batf3 provided by the related AP-1 factors Batf, which also functions in T and B cells, and Batf2 induced by cytokines in response to infection. Reciprocally, physiologic compensation between Batf and Batf3 also occurs in T cells for expression of IL-10 and CTLA-4. Compensation among BATF factors is based on the shared capacity of their leucine zipper domains to interact with non-AP-1 factors such as Irf4 and Irf8 to mediate cooperative gene activation. Conceivably, manipulating this alternative pathway of dendritic cell development could be of value in augmenting immune responses to vaccines.
Interferon regulatory factor 4 (IRF4) is an IRF family transcription factor with critical roles in lymphoid development and in regulating the immune response1,2. IRF4 binds DNA weakly due to a C-terminal auto-inhibitory domain, but cooperative binding with factors such as PU.1 or SPIB in B cells increases binding affinity3, allowing IRF4 to regulate genes containing ETS/IRF composite elements (EICEs; 5′-GGAAnnGAAA-3′)1. Here, we show that in CD4+ T cells, where PU.1/SPIB expression is low, and in B cells, where PU.1 is well expressed, IRF4 unexpectedly can cooperate with Activator Protein-1 (AP-1) complexes to bind to AP-1/IRF4 composite (TGAnTCA/GAAA) motifs that we denote as AP-1/IRF composite elements (AICEs). Moreover, BATF/Jun family protein complexes cooperate with IRF4 in binding to AICEs in pre-activated CD4+ T cells stimulated with IL-21 and in Th17 differentiated cells. Importantly, BATF binding was diminished in Irf4−/− T cells and IRF4 binding was diminished in Batf−/− T cells, consistent with functional cooperation between these factors. Moreover, we show that AP-1 and IRF complexes cooperatively promote transcription of the Il10 gene, which is expressed in Th17 cells and potently regulated by IL-21. These findings reveal that IRF4 can signal via complexes containing ETS or AP-1 motifs depending on the cellular context, thus indicating new approaches for modulating IRF4-dependent transcription.
Cytokine-activated STAT proteins dimerize and bind to high-affinity motifs, and N-terminal domain-mediated oligomerization of dimers allows tetramer formation and binding to low-affinity tandem motifs, but the functions of dimers versus tetramers are unknown. We generated Stat5a-Stat5b double knock-in (DKI) N-domain mutant mice that form dimers but not tetramers, identified cytokine-regulated genes whose expression required STAT5 tetramers, and defined dimer versus tetramer consensus motifs. Whereas Stat5- deficient mice exhibited perinatal lethality, DKI mice were viable; thus, STAT5 dimers were sufficient for survival. Nevertheless, STAT5 DKI mice had fewer CD4+CD25+ T cells, NK cells, and CD8+ T cells, with impaired cytokine-induced and homeostatic proliferation of CD8+ T cells. DKI CD8+ T cell proliferation following viral infection was diminished and DKI Treg cells did not efficiently control colitis. Thus, tetramerization of STAT5 is dispensable for survival but is critical for cytokine responses and normal immune function, establishing a critical role for tetramerization in vivo.
IL-21 is a cytokine with pleiotropic actions, promoting terminal differentiation of B cells, increased immunoglobulin production, and the development of Th17 and T follicular helper cells. IL-21 is also implicated in the development of autoimmune disease and has anti-tumor activity. Here we investigated the role of IL-21 in host-defense to pneumonia virus of mice (PVM), which initiates an infection in mice resembling that of respiratory syncytial virus disease in humans. We found that PVM-infected mice expressed IL-21 in lung CD4+ T cells. Following infection, Il21r-/- mice exhibited less lung infiltration by neutrophils than did WT mice and correspondingly had lower levels of the chemokine CXCL1 in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid and lung parenchyma. CD8+, CD4+, and γδ T-cell numbers were also lower in the lungs of PVM-infected Il21r-/- mice than in infected WT mice, with normal Th17 cytokines but diminished IL-6 production in PVM-infected Il21r-/- mice. Strikingly, Il21r-/- mice had enhanced survival following PVM-infection, and moreover, treatment of WT mice with soluble IL-21R-Fc fusion protein enhanced their survival. These data reveal that IL-21 promotes the pathogenic inflammatory effect of PVM and indicate that manipulating IL-21 signaling may represent an immunomodulatory strategy for controlling PVM and potentially other respiratory virus infections.
Some chemical compounds in the environment worsen allergic inflammation. In this study, we examined whether organic solvents induce the production of thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) which elicits Th2-type immune responses.
Organic solvents were painted on the earlobes of BALB/c mice. The expression of TSLP in the ear was determined by ELISA.
Xylene and toluene, but not chloroform or ethyl acetate, induced the expression of mRNA for TSLP in the earlobe tissue. Among the aromatic compounds, xylene, especially m-xylene, and trimethylbenzene caused apparent TSLP production. The level of TSLP in the xylene-treated earlobes reached a maximum at 24 h, and TSLP was expressed in epithelial tissues. Production of TSLP was unaffected in mast cell-deficient W/Wv mice but apparently diminished in TNF-α knockout mice and IL-4 receptor knockout mice. Repeated painting of xylene for 7 days induced an increase in the weight of cervical lymph nodes and expression of OX40 ligand, both of which were inhibited in TSLP receptor knockout mice. Xylene promoted the picryl chloride-induced thickening of the ear and IL-4 production, which were reversed in TSLP receptor knockout mice.
Xylene induced TSLP production, resulting in an exacerbation of allergic inflammation. Thus, xylene might be a good tool for examining the roles of TSLP in eliciting allergy in experimental animals.
Allergic inflammation; Thymic stromal lymphopoietin; Xylene
Interleukin-21 (IL-21) is a proinflammatory cytokine that has been shown to affect Treg/Teff balance. However, the mechanism by which IL-21 orchestrates alloimmune response and interplays with Tregs is still unclear.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
The interplay between IL-21/IL-21R signaling, FoxP3 expression, and Treg survival and function was evaluated in vitro in immunologically relevant assays and in vivo in allogenic and autoimmune models of islet transplantation.
IL-21R expression decreases on T cells and B cells in vitro and increases in the graft in vivo, while IL-21 levels increase in vitro and in vivo during anti-CD3/anti-CD28 stimulation/allostimulation in the late phase of the alloimmune response. In vitro, IL-21/IL-21R signaling (by using rmIL-21 or genetically modified CD4+ T cells [IL-21 pOrf plasmid–treated or hIL-21-Tg mice]) enhances the T-cell response during anti-CD3/anti-CD28 stimulation/allostimulation, prevents Treg generation, inhibits Treg function, induces Treg apoptosis, and reduces FoxP3 and FoxP3-dependent gene transcripts without affecting FoxP3 methylation status. In vivo targeting of IL-21/IL-21R expands intragraft and peripheral Tregs, promotes Treg neogenesis, and regulates the antidonor immune response, whereas IL-21/IL-21R signaling in Doxa-inducible ROSA-rtTA-IL-21-Tg mice expands Teffs and FoxP3− cells. Treatment with a combination of mIL-21R.Fc and CTLA4-Ig (an inhibitor of the early alloimmune response) leads to robust graft tolerance in a purely alloimmune setting and prolonged islet graft survival in NOD mice.
IL-21 interferes with different checkpoints of the FoxP3 Treg chain in the late phase of alloimmune response and, thus, acts as an antitolerogenic cytokine. Blockade of the IL-21/IL-21R pathway could be a precondition for tolerogenic protocols in transplantation.
Interleukin-2 (IL-2) is a pleiotropic cytokine that drives T-cell growth, augments NK cytolytic activity, induces the differentiation of regulatory T cells, and mediates activation-induced cell death. Along with IL-4, IL-7, IL-9, IL-15, and IL-21, IL-2 shares the common cytokine receptor γ chain, γc, which is mutated in humans with X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency. Herein, we primarily focus on the recently discovered complex roles of IL-2 in broadly modulating T cells for T helper cell differentiation. IL-2 does not specify the type of Th differentiation that occurs; instead, IL-2 modulates expression of receptors for other cytokines and transcription factors, thereby either promoting or inhibiting cytokine cascades that correlate with each Th differentiation state. In this fashion, IL-2 can prime and potentially maintain Th1 and Th2 differentiation as well as expand such populations of cells, whereas it inhibits Th17 differentiation but also can expand Th17 cells.
Regulatory T cells (T reg cells) are a population of CD4+ T cells that limit immune responses. FoxP3 is a master control transcription factor for development and function of these cells, but its regulation is poorly understood. We have identified a T cell receptor–responsive enhancer in the FoxP3 first intron that is dependent on a cyclic-AMP response element binding protein (CREB)/activating transcription factor (ATF) site overlapping a CpG island. Methylation of this island inversely correlates with CREB binding and FoxP3 expression. Interestingly, transforming growth factor-β, which induces T reg cell formation, decreases methylation of the CpG island and increases FoxP3 expression. Similarly, inhibiting methylation with 5-azacytidine or knocking down the DNA methyltransferase Dnmt1 also induces FoxP3 expression. Conversely, methylation of the CpG island, which decreases CREB binding or expression of dominant-negative CREB, decreases FoxP3 gene expression. Thus, T cell receptor–induced FoxP3 expression in T reg cells is controlled both by sequence-specific binding of CREB/ATF and by DNA methylation of a CpG island.
Thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) is a cytokine that promotes CD4+ T cell homeostasis. We now demonstrate that TSLP is required to mount a normal CD4+ T cell–mediated inflammatory response. TSLP acts directly on naive, but not, memory CD4+ T cells, and promotes their proliferation in response to antigen. In addition, TSLP exerts an effect indirectly through DCs to promote Th2 differentiation of CD4+ T cells. Correspondingly, TSLP receptor (TSLPR) knockout (KO) mice exhibit strong Th1 responses, with high levels of interleukin (IL)-12, interferon-γ, and immunoglobulin (Ig) G2a, but low production of IL-4, -5, -10, -13, and IgE; moreover, CD4+ T cells from these animals proliferate less well in response to antigen. Furthermore, TSLPR KO mice fail to develop an inflammatory lung response to inhaled antigen unless supplemented with wild-type CD4+ T cells. This underscores an important role for this cytokine in the development of inflammatory and/or allergic responses in vivo.
Inflammation is a double-edged sword that can promote or suppress cancer progression. Here we report that thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP), an IL-7-like type 1 inflammatory cytokine that is often associated with the induction of Th2-type allergic responses in the lungs, is also expressed in human and murine cancers. Our studies with murine cancer cells indicate that TSLP plays an essential role in cancer escape, as its inactivation in cancer cells alone was sufficient to almost completely abrogate cancer progression and lung metastasis. The cancer-promoting activity of TSLP primarily required signaling through the TSLP receptor on CD4+ T cells, promoting Th2-skewed immune responses and production of immunosuppressive factors such as IL-10 and IL-13. Expression of TSLP therefore may be a useful prognostic marker and its targeting could have therapeutic potential.
TSLP; breast cancer metastasis; Th2-type responses
Skin fibrotic remodeling is a major feature in human atopic dermatitis (AD). Inflammation and tissue fibrosis are common consequences of Th2 responses. Elevated IL-13 and thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) have been found in the AD skin lesions. Fibrocytes can be recruited to inflamed tissues to promote wound healing and fibrosis. Dermal transgenic expression of IL-13 causes an AD-like phenotype with fibrosis and increased TSLP. However, the role of TSLP in fibrotic remodeling is unknown. In this study, we investigated the role of TSLP and fibrocytes in the generation of IL-13–induced skin fibrosis. In AD lesion, cessation of IL-13 transgene expression resulted in reduced skin inflammation but with no effect on further progression of fibrosis. This was accompanied by markedly increased CD34+/procollagen 1+ fibrocytes. Furthermore, fibrocytes express TSLP receptor (TSLPR), and TSLP directly promotes PBMC-derived fibrocytes to produce collagen. Neutralization of TSLP or genetic deletion of TSLPR in IL-13 transgenic mice resulted in a significant reduction in fibrocytes and in skin fibrosis. Furthermore, reduction of fibrosis by depletion of TSLP was independent of IL-13. Interestingly, the number of fibrocytes was highly increased in the skin samples of AD patients. These data indicate that the progression of skin fibrosis in IL-13–induced AD occurs via TSLP/TSLPR-dependent but IL-13–independent novel mechanisms by promoting fibrocyte functions.
Thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) signals via a receptor comprising the interleukin (IL)-7 receptor α chain and a distinctive subunit, TSLP receptor (TSLPR), which is most related to the common cytokine receptor γ chain, γc. We have generated TSLPR knockout (KO) mice and found that although these mice had normal lymphocyte numbers, γc/TSLPR double KO mice had a greater lymphoid defect than γc KO mice. This indicates that TSLP contributes to lymphoid development and accounts for some of the residual lymphoid development in γc KO mice and presumably in patients with X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency. Injection of TSLP into γc KO mice induced the expansion of T and B cells. Moreover, sublethally irradiated TSLPR KO mice showed weaker recovery of lymphocyte populations than wild-type (WT) littermates, even when neutralizing anti–IL-7 antibodies were injected. Interestingly, TSLP preferentially stimulated the proliferation and survival of CD4+ single positive thymocytes and peripheral T cells in vitro. Additionally, CD4+ T cells from TSLPR KO mice expanded less efficiently than WT CD4+ T cells in irradiated hosts, and TSLP preferentially expanded CD4+ T cells both in vitro and in vivo. Thus, as compared with other known cytokines, TSLP is distinctive in exhibiting a lineage preference for the expansion and survival of CD4+ T cells.
thymocyte development; IL-7; SCID; CD8 T cells; knockout mice
Decidualization, a progesterone-dependent process that alters endometrial stromal cells at implantation sites in humans and rodents, is accompanied by a highly regulated, NK cell-dominated, leukocyte influx into decidua basalis (DB). Whether uterine NK cells differentiate from uterine progenitor cells is unknown as are the mechanisms restricting leukocytes to DB. We asked if cells expressing the early NK lineage marker CD127 (IL-7Rα) occurred in mouse decidua. CD127 was absent from gestation day (gd)6.5 decidual lymphoid cells but became expressed by a mature uNK cell subset in gd10.5 DB. DB and transient myometrial structures (MLAp) that ring maternal blood vessels supplying placentae both expressed IL-7 and thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP), the CD127 ligands, but with differing temporal and spatial patterns. Uterine NK cells expressed TSLPR and study of gd10.5 implantation sites from mice deleted for IL-7, CD127 or TSLPR suggested that IL-7 and its receptor have physiological roles in limiting expansion of immature uNK cells within MLAp while the TSLP signalling pathway is used in DB to sustain IFN-γ production from a subset of mature uNK cells. Regionalized, dynamic expression of the additional lymphoid organ stromal markers gp38/Podoplanin and ER-TR7 but not CD157 was seen by immunohistochemistry in implantation sites and DB and MLAp contained transcripts for Aire, a tolerance54 promoting factor. These observations suggest that CD127+ NK lineage progenitors are not present in the early postimplantation period of mouse uterus and that decidualized endometrial stroma has key immunoregulatory properties.
PMID: 22227963 CAMSID: cams2039
Decidua; interleukin 7; stromal factor; thymic stromal lymphopoietin
Interleukin-21 (IL-21) plays a key role in the late stage of B cell development, where it has been shown to induce growth and differentiation of mature B cells into Ig-secreting plasma cells. Since IL-21 receptors (IL-21R) have also been reported on bone marrow (BM) B cell progenitors, we investigated whether IL-21R influenced earlier stages of B cell development. IL-21R is functional as early as the proB cell stage and the strength of receptor-mediated signalling increases as cells mature. The addition of IL-21 to B cell progenitors in cell culture resulted in the accelerated appearance of mature B cell markers and was associated with the induction of Aid, Blimp1, and germline transcripts (GLTs). We also found that stimulation of both IL-21R and CD40 was sufficient to induce the maturation of early B cell progenitors into IgM- and IgG-secreting cells. Consistent with a role for IL-21 in promoting B cell differentiation, the number of B220+CD43+IgM− proB cells was increased and the number of mature IgMhiIgDhi cells was decreased in BM of IL-21R-deficient mice (ILR-21−/−). We also report here that IL-21 is expressed by BM CD4+ T cells. These results provide the first evidence that IL-21R is functional in B cell progenitors and indicate that IL-21 regulates B cell development.
We have analyzed the immune system in Stat5-deficient mice. Although Stat5a−/− splenocytes have a partial defect in anti-CD3-induced proliferation that can be overcome by high dose interleukin (IL)-2, we now demonstrate that defective proliferation in Stat5b−/− splenocytes cannot be corrected by this treatment. Interestingly, this finding may be at least partially explained by diminished expression of the IL-2 receptor β chain (IL-2Rβ), which is a component of the receptors for both IL-2 and IL-15, although other defects may also exist. Similar to the defect in proliferation in activated splenocytes, freshly isolated splenocytes from Stat5b−/− mice exhibited greatly diminished proliferation in response to IL-2 and IL-15. This results from both a decrease in the number and responsiveness of natural killer (NK) cells. Corresponding to the diminished proliferation, basal as well as IL-2– and IL-15–mediated boosting of NK cytolytic activity was also greatly diminished. These data indicate an essential nonredundant role for Stat5b for potent NK cell–mediated proliferation and cytolytic activity.
natural killer cells; Stat5b; Stat5a; interleukin 2; interleukin 15
T helper (TH) cells control host-defense to pathogens. The receptors for IL-12, IL-4, and IL-6 are required for TH1, TH2, and TH17 differentiation, respectively. IL-2 signaling via the transcription factor STAT5 controls TH2 differentiation by regulating the TH2 cytokine gene cluster and Il4ra expression. Here we show that IL-2 regulates TH1 differentiation, inducing STAT5-dependent IL-12Rβ2 and T-bet expression, with impaired human TH1 differentiation when IL-2 was blocked. TH1 differentiation was also impaired in mouse Il2−/− T cells but restored by IL-12Rβ2 expression. Consistent with IL-2’s inhibition of TH17 differentiation, IL-2 decreased Il6ra and Il6st expression, and Il6st augmented TH17 differentiation even when IL-2 was present. Thus, IL-2 influences TH cell differentiation by modulating cytokine receptor expression to help specify and maintain differentiated states.
In the immune system, there is a careful regulation not only of lymphoid development and proliferation, but also of the fate of activated and proliferating cells. Although the manner in which these diverse events are coordinated is incompletely understood, cytokines are known to play major roles. Whereas IL-7 is essential for lymphoid development, IL-2 and IL-4 are vital for lymphocyte proliferation. The receptors for each of these cytokines contain the common cytokine receptor γ chain (γc), and it was previously shown that γc-deficient mice exhibit severely compromised development and responsiveness to IL-2, IL-4, and IL-7. Nevertheless, these mice exhibit an age-dependent accumulation of splenic CD4+ T cells, the majority of which have a phenotype typical of memory/activated cells. When γc-deficient mice were mated to DO11.10 T cell receptor (TCR) transgenic mice, only the T cells bearing endogenous TCRs had this phenotype, suggesting that its acquisition was TCR dependent. Not only do the CD4+ T cells from γc-deficient mice exhibit an activated phenotype and greatly enhanced incorporation of bromodeoxyuridine but, consistent with the lack of γc-dependent survival signals, they also exhibit an augmented rate of apoptosis. However, because the CD4+ T cells accumulate, it is clear that the rate of proliferation exceeds the rate of cell death. Thus, surprisingly, although γc-independent signals are sufficient to mediate expansion of CD4+ T cells in these mice, γc-dependent signals are required to regulate the fate of activated CD4+ T cells, underscoring the importance of γc-dependent signals in controlling lymphoid homeostasis.
CD4 T cell help plays an important role in promoting CD8 T cell immunity to pathogens. In models of infection with vaccinia virus (VV) and Listeria monocytogenes, CD4 T cell help is critical for the survival of activated CD8 T cells during both the primary and memory recall responses. Still unclear, however, is how CD4 T cell help promotes CD8 T cell survival. Here we first showed that CD4 T cell help for the CD8 T cell response to VV infection was mediated by IL-21, a cytokine produced predominantly by activated CD4 T cells, and that direct action of IL-21 on CD8 T cells was critical for the VV-specific CD8 T cell response in vivo. We next demonstrated that this intrinsic IL-21 signaling was essential for the survival of activated CD8 T cells and the generation of long-lived memory cells. We further revealed that IL-21 promoted CD8 T cell survival in a mechanism dependent on activation of the STAT1 and STAT3 pathways and subsequent upregulation of the pro-survival molecules Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL. These results identify a critical role for intrinsic IL-21 signaling in CD8 T cell responses to an acute viral infection in vivo and may help design effective vaccine strategies.
Interleukin-21 (IL-21) is a pleiotropic cytokine that induces expression of transcription factor BLIMP1 (encoded by Prdm1), which regulates plasma cell differentiation and T cell homeostasis. We identified an IL-21 response element downstream of Prdm1 that binds the transcription factors STAT3 and IRF4, which are required for optimal Prdm1 expression. Genome-wide ChIP-Seq mapping of STAT3- and IRF4-binding sites showed that most regions with IL-21-induced STAT3 binding also bound IRF4 in vivo and furthermore revealed that the noncanonical TTCnnnTAA GAS motif critical in Prdm1 was broadly used for STAT3 binding. Comparing genome-wide expression array data to binding sites revealed that most IL-21-regulated genes were associated with combined STAT3-IRF4 sites rather than pure STAT3 sites. Correspondingly, ChIP-Seq analysis of Irf4−/− T cells showed greatly diminished STAT3 binding after IL-21 treatment, and Irf4−/− mice showed impaired IL-21-induced Tfh cell differentiation in vivo. These results reveal broad cooperative gene regulation by STAT3 and IRF4.