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J Immunol. 2003 Apr 1;170(7):3915-25.

IL-12 deficiency in MRL-Fas(lpr) mice delays nephritis and intrarenal IFN-gamma expression, and diminishes systemic pathology.

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Laboratory of Molecular Autoimmune Disease, Renal Division, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Autoimmune disease in MRL-Fas(lpr) mice is characterized by fatal nephritis, systemic pathology, and autoantibodies, mimicking human lupus. We previously reported that 1) intrarenal IL-12 elicits nephritis by fostering the accumulation of intrarenal IFN-gamma-secreting T cells, and 2) MRL-Fas(lpr) mice deficient in the IFN-gamma receptor were spared from nephritis. Therefore, we hypothesized that eliminating IL-12 in MRL-Fas(lpr) mice reduces IFN-gamma-secreting cells and thereby prevents systemic pathology. For this purpose, we constructed an IL-12p40-deficient MRL-Fas(lpr)(IL-12(-/-)) strain. We determined that glomerular and interstitial, but not perivascular, renal pathology were decreased in IL-12(-/-) mice vs the wild-type (WT) strain (5 mo of age). Similarly, systemic pathology (lung, lacrimal and salivary glands, skin, and lymphadenopathy) was diminished. The intrarenal accumulation of T cells (CD4(+), CD8(+), CD4(-)CD8(-)B220(+)) and macrophages was dramatically reduced in IL-12(-/-) MRL-Fas(lpr) kidneys. We determined that there were fewer IFN-gamma transcripts (>70%) in the IL-12(-/-) protected kidneys compared with the WT kidneys. Similarly, cells propagated from IL-12(-/-) MRL-Fas(lpr) kidneys generated substantially less IFN-gamma when stimulated with IL-12 and IL-18 compared with those from WT kidneys, and we detected fewer CD8 and B220 T cells producing IFN-gamma in these IL-12(-/-) MRL-Fas(lpr) kidneys. Of note, survival was modestly extended in the IL-12(-/-) MRL-Fas(lpr) mice. While lung and lacrimal and salivary gland pathology remained reduced in moribund IL-12(-/-) MRL-Fas(lpr) mice, renal pathology and IFN-gamma expression were equivalent to those in the WT strain. Thus, we suggest that IL-12 is a therapeutic target for multiple tissues in lupus; however blocking IL-12 alone is not sufficient to confer enduring protection from lupus nephritis.

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