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J Immunol. 2007 Nov 1;179(9):6228-36.

Exacerbation of antigen-induced arthritis in IFN-gamma-deficient mice as a result of unrestricted IL-17 response.

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  • 1Institute of Pathology, University Hospital, Jena, Germany.


Proinflammatory Th1 responses are believed to be involved in the induction and perpetuation of rheumatoid arthritis. However, the role of IFN-gamma, the major cytokine produced by Th1 cells, is still incompletely defined. In the present study, we investigated the effects of IFN-gamma deficiency (IFN-gamma(-/-)) on the course of experimental murine Ag-induced arthritis (AIA). In the acute stage of disease, IFN-gamma(-/-) AIA mice showed significantly increased inflammatory responses compared with wild-type C57BL/6 AIA mice, i.e., exacerbated joint swelling, increased delayed-type hypersensitivity reaction, and increased histopathological scores of arthritis. Intraarticular administration of exogenous IFN-gamma at induction of AIA significantly suppressed these acute aggravation effects. Stimulated cells isolated from lymph nodes and spleen of IFN-gamma(-/-) AIA mice showed increased production of IL-2, IL-4, IL-5, IL-6, but most prominently of IL-17. These elevations were paralleled by decreased humoral immune responses, with low serum levels of total and Ag-specific IgG (IgG1, IgG2a(b), IgG2b, IgG3). At immunohistology, the knee joints of IFN-gamma(-/-) AIA mice showed massive neutrophil granulocyte infiltration. Treatment with mAbs neutralizing IL-17 diminished the acute inflammation. In vitro, Th cell expansion and production of IL-17 upon restimulation were effectively and dose dependently inhibited by IFN-gamma. These results clearly demonstrate that IFN-gamma has anti-inflammatory properties during the initial phase of AIA, and indicate that IFN-gamma deficiency exerts disease-promoting effects, preferentially via IL-17-modulated pathways.

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