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J Immunol. 2005 Jul 15;175(2):788-95.

IL-23 compensates for the absence of IL-12p70 and is essential for the IL-17 response during tuberculosis but is dispensable for protection and antigen-specific IFN-gamma responses if IL-12p70 is available.

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  • 1Trudeau Institute, 154 Algonquin Avenue, Saranac Lake, NY 12983, USA.


IL-12p70 induced IFN-gamma is required to control Mycobacterium tuberculosis growth; however, in the absence of IL-12p70, an IL-12p40-dependent pathway mediates induction of IFN-gamma and initial bacteriostatic activity. IL-23 is an IL-12p40-dependent cytokine containing an IL-12p40 subunit covalently bound to a p19 subunit that is implicated in the induction of CD4 T cells associated with autoimmunity and inflammation. We show that in IL-23 p19-deficient mice, mycobacterial growth is controlled, and there is no diminution in either the number of IFN-gamma-producing Ag-specific CD4 T cells or local IFN-gamma mRNA expression. Conversely, there is an almost total loss of both IL-17-producing Ag-specific CD4 T cells and local production of IL-17 mRNA in these mice. The absence of IL-17 does not alter expression of the antimycobacterial genes, NO synthase 2 and LRG-47, and the absence of IL-23 or IL-17, both of which are implicated in mediating inflammation, fails to substantially affect the granulomatous response to M. tuberculosis infection of the lung. Despite this redundancy, IL-23 is required to provide a moderate level of protection in the absence of IL-12p70, and this protection correlates with a requirement for IL-23 in the IL-12p70-independent induction of Ag-specific, IFN-gamma-producing CD4 T cells. We also show that IL-23 is required for the induction of an IL-17-producing Ag-specific phenotype in naive CD4 T cells in vitro and that absence of IL-12p70 promotes an increase in the number of IL-17-producing Ag-specific CD4 T cells both in vitro and in vivo.

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