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IL-21/type I interferon interplay regulates neutrophil-dependent innate immune responses to Staphylococcus aureus

Spolski, R;West, EE;Li, P;Veenbergen, S;Yung, S;Kazemian, M;Oh, J;Yu, ZX;Freeman, AF;Holland, SM;Murphy, PM;Leonard, WJ;

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a major hospital- and community-acquired pathogen, but the mechanisms underlying host-defense to MRSA remain poorly understood. Here, we investigated the role of IL-21 in this process. When administered intra-tracheally into wild-type mice, IL-21 induced granzymes and augmented clearance of pulmonary MRSA but not when neutrophils were depleted or a granzyme B inhibitor was added. Correspondingly, IL-21 induced MRSA killing by human peripheral blood neutrophils. Unexpectedly, however, basal MRSA clearance was enhanced when IL-21 signaling was blocked, both in Il21r KO mice and in wild-type mice injected with IL-21R-Fc fusion-protein. This correlated with increased type I interferon and an IFN-related gene signature, and indeed anti-IFNAR1 treatment diminished MRSA clearance in these animals. Moreover, we found that IFNb induced granzyme B and promoted MRSA clearance in a granzyme B-dependent fashion. These results reveal an interplay between IL-21 and type-I IFN in the innate immune response to MRSA.