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J Exp Med. 1999 Sep 20;190(6):783-92.

Inhibition of T helper cell type 2 cell differentiation and immunoglobulin E response by ligand-activated Valpha14 natural killer T cells.

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CREST (Core Research for Evolution Science and Technology) Project, Department of Molecular Immunology, Chiba, Japan.


Murine Valpha14 natural killer T (NKT) cells are thought to play a crucial role in various immune responses, including infectious, allergic, and autoimmune diseases. Because Valpha14 NKT cells produce large amounts of both interleukin (IL)-4 and interferon (IFN)-gamma upon in vivo stimulation with a specific ligand, alpha-galactosylceramide (alpha-GalCer), or after treatment with anti-CD3 antibody, a regulatory role on helper T (Th) cell differentiation has been proposed for these cells. However, the identity of the cytokine produced by Valpha14 NKT cells that play a dominant role on the Th cell differentiation still remains controversial. Here, we demonstrate by using Valpha14 NKT-deficient mice that Valpha14 NKT cells are dispensable for the induction of antigen-specific immunoglobulin (Ig)E responses induced by ovalbumin immunization or Nippostrongylus brasiliensis infection. However, upon in vivo activation with alpha-GalCer, Valpha14 NKT cells are found to suppress antigen-specific IgE production. The suppression appeared to be IgE specific, and was not detected in either Valpha14 NKT- or IFN-gamma-deficient mice. Consistent with these results, we also found that ligand-activated Valpha14 NKT cells inhibited Th2 cell differentiation in an in vitro induction culture system. Thus, it is likely that activated Valpha14 NKT cells exert a potent inhibitory effect on Th2 cell differentiation and subsequent IgE production by producing a large amount of IFN-gamma. In marked contrast, our studies have revealed that IL-4 produced by Valpha14 NKT cells has only a minor effect on Th2 cell differentiation.

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