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J Immunol. 2003 May 1;170(9):4457-64.

IL-6 production by pulmonary dendritic cells impedes Th1 immune responses.

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  • 1Division of Rheumatology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Mucosal tissues, such as the lung, are continually exposed to both foreign and environmental Ags. To counter the potential inflammatory tissue injury of chronic Th1-mediated responses against these Ags, mucosal sites may skew toward Th2 immune responses. However, the mechanism by which this occurs is unknown. Dendritic cells (DC), as orchestrators of the immune response, skew Th1/Th2 differentiation by cytokine secretion and expression of specific cell surface markers. We compared DC from mucosal and systemic locations. In this study, we show that the lung lacks a CD8alpha(+) DC subpopulation and contains DC that appear less mature than splenic DC. Furthermore, we demonstrate that pulmonary DC produce significant levels of IL-6 and fail to produce the Th1-polarizing cytokine IL-12. Importantly, we demonstrate that IL-6 negatively regulates IL-12 production, as pulmonary DC from IL-6(-/-) mice produce significant levels of IL-12 and induce Th1 polarization of naive CD4(+) T cells. Furthermore, we demonstrate that IL-6 is sufficient to explain the differential polarizing abilities of pulmonary and splenic DC, as splenic DC cocultures supplemented with IL-6 polarize naive T cells toward Th2, and pulmonary DC cultures in which IL-6 was removed with neutralizing Ab resulted in more Th1 polarization, pointing to IL-6 as the mechanism of Th2 polarization in the lung. We propose that the Th2 response seen in the lung is due to DC-mediated inhibition of Th1 responses via IL-6 production, rather than enhanced Th2 responses, and that this regulation decreases the likelihood of chronic inflammatory pathology in the lung.

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