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Increased Th17 and regulatory T cell responses in EBV-induced gene 3-deficient mice lead to marginally enhanced development of autoimmune encephalomyelitis

Liu, JQ;Liu, Z;Zhang, X;Shi, Y;Talebian, F;Carl, JW;Yu, C;Shi, FD;Whitacre, CC;Trgovcich, J;Bai, XF;

EBV-induced gene 3 (EBI3)-encoded protein can form heterodimers with IL-27P28 and IL-12P35 to form IL-27 and IL-35. IL-27 and IL-35 may influence autoimmunity by inhibiting Th17 differentiation and facilitating the inhibitory roles of Foxp3(+) regulatory T (Treg) cells, respectively. In this study, we have evaluated the development of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) in EBI3-deficient mice that lack both IL-27 and IL-35. We found that myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein peptide immunization resulted in marginally enhanced EAE development in EBI3-deficient C57BL6 and 2D2 TCR-transgenic mice. EBI3 deficiency resulted in significantly increased Th17 and Th1 responses in the CNS and increased T cell production of IL-2 and IL-17 in the peripheral lymphoid organs. EBI3-deficient and -sufficient 2D2 T cells had equal ability in inducing EAE in Rag1(-/-) mice; however, more severe disease was induced in EBI3(-/-)Rag1(-/-) mice than in Rag1(-/-) mice by 2D2 T cells. EBI3-deficient mice had increased numbers of CD4(+)Foxp3(+) Treg cells in peripheral lymphoid organs. More strikingly, EBI3-deficient Treg cells had more potent suppressive functions in vitro and in vivo. Thus, our data support an inhibitory role for EBI3 in Th17, Th1, IL-2, and Treg responses. Although these observations are consistent with the known functions of IL-27, the IL-35 contribution to the suppressive functions of Treg cells is not evident in this model. Increased Treg responses in EBI3(-/-) mice may explain why the EAE development is only modestly enhanced compared with wild-type mice.