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J Immunol. 2005 Mar 1;174(5):2720-9.

IL-6 plays a unique role in initiating c-Maf expression during early stage of CD4 T cell activation.

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  • 1Department of Gene and Cell Medicine, The Recanati/Miller Transplantation Institute, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY 10029, USA.


The transcription factor c-Maf plays a critical and selective role in IL-4 gene transcription. Little is known about the mechanism that guides c-Maf regulation during early T cell activation. We report that IL-6 but not IL-4 or other cytokines, rapidly up-regulates c-Maf transcription, as early as 3 h after TCR activation in naive CD4(+) T cells. c-Maf induction requires both IL-6- and TCR-initiated signals, and is independent of IL-4/Stat6 signals. Cyclosporin A and FK506, which target calcineurin and thereby inhibit TCR-mediated Ca(2+) signal pathways, block IL-6-mediated c-Maf expression. We show that Stat3 binds the c-maf promoter in CD4 T cells after IL-6 stimulation, and also transactivates the c-maf promoter in reporter gene assays. IL-6 induces similar c-Maf expression in protein kinase Ctheta-deficient CD4(+) T cells. Furthermore, IL-6 enhances IL-4 gene expression very early after TCR activation in both wild-type and Stat6-deficient CD4(+) T cells. Our findings suggest that IL-6 plays a unique role in initiating c-Maf expression after TCR engagement, and may subsequently regulate early IL-4 production and Th2 commitment.

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