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J Immunol. 2008 Oct 1;181(7):4485-94.

Hepatitis C virus-specific Th17 cells are suppressed by virus-induced TGF-beta.

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  • 1School of Biochemistry and Immunology, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland.


IL-17-secreting T (Th17) cells play a protective role in certain bacterial infections, but they are major mediators of inflammation and are pathogenic in organ-specific autoimmune diseases. However, human Th17 cells appear to be resistant to suppression by CD4(+)CD25(+)FoxP3(+) regulatory T cells, suggesting that they may be regulated by alternative mechanisms. Herein we show that IL-10 and TGF-beta suppressed IL-17 production by anti-CD3-stimulated PBMC from normal individuals. TGF-beta also suppressed IL-17 production by purified CD4(+) T cells, whereas the inhibitory effect of IL-10 on IL-17 production appears to be mediated predominantly by its effect on APC. An examination of patients infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) demonstrated that Ag-specific Th17 cells are induced during infection and that these cells are regulated by IL-10 and TGF-beta. PBMC from HCV Ab-positive donors secreted IL-17, IFN-gamma, IL-10, and TGF-beta in response to stimulation with the HCV nonstructural protein 4 (NS4). Furthermore, NS4 induced innate TGF-beta and IL-10 expression by monocytes from normal donors and at higher levels from HCV-infected patients. Neutralization of TGF-beta, and to a lesser extent IL-10, significantly enhanced NS4-specific IL-17 and IFN-gamma production by T cells from HCV-infected donors. Our findings suggest that both HCV-specific Th1 and Th17 cells are suppressed by NS4-induced production of the innate anti-inflammatory cytokines IL-10 and TGF-beta. This may represent a novel immune subversion mechanism by the virus to evade host-protective immune responses. Our findings also suggest that TGF-beta and IL-10 play important roles in constraining the function of Th17 cells in general.

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