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J Immunol. 1999 Jul 1;163(1):93-101.

A novel function of Valpha14+CD4+NKT cells: stimulation of IL-12 production by antigen-presenting cells in the innate immune system.

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Biomedical Research Center, Osaka University Medical School, Japan.


The balance between Th1 and Th2 development is determined by IL-4 and IL-12. While the role for CD4+ NK1.1+ T (NKT) cells in influencing this balance has been recognized based on their capacity to produce IL-4, it is unknown how IL-12 is produced in the innate immune system in which they participate. This study demonstrates that Ag-activated CD4+ NKT cells express CD40 ligand (CD40L) (CD154), which engages CD40 on APC and stimulates them to produce IL-12. Culture of B cell-depleted spleen cells from C57BL/6 mice with alpha-galactosylceramide (alpha-GalCer) capable of selectively stimulating Valpha14/Jalpha281+ NKT cells resulted in the production of IL-12 together with IFN-gamma and IL-4. alpha-GalCer-induced IL-12 production occurred in I-Abbeta-deficient mice, but not in beta2-microglobulin-deficient and Valpha14/Jalpha281 TCR-deficient mice, and was inhibited by anti-CD40L mAb. Of CD4+ and CD4- NKT cells, the capacity to express CD40L/CD154 and trigger IL-12 production following alpha-GalCer stimulation was exhibited preferentially by the CD4+ NKT subset. IL-12 production was also observed in alpha-GalCer-treated mice. Production of IL-12 preceded IFN-gamma production, and IL-12 was required for IFN-gamma, but not IL-4, production. A stimulatory/inhibitory relationship existed between IL-12 and IL-4 production. These results illustrate a novel function of CD4+ NKT cells that could be involved in the regulation of Th1 vs Th2 development.

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