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J Invest Dermatol. 2003 Dec;121(6):1379-82.

Interleukin-21 inhibits dendritic cell-mediated T cell activation and induction of contact hypersensitivity in vivo.

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Research Center Borstel, Department of Immunology and Cell Biology, Borstel, Germany.


Interleukin (IL)-21 is a newly described cytokine that is produced by activated T cells and displays structural homology to IL-4 and IL-15. We here analyzed the role of IL-21 in dendritic cell (DC)-induced, T cell-mediated contact hypersensitivity (CHS) in vivo and on T cell activation and unspecific mixed lymphocyte reaction in vitro. By PCR, we demonstrate here constitutive expression of the specific IL-21 receptor and the common gamma-chain in DC, which together are able to mediate IL-21 signaling. Short-time incubation of in vitro generated DC with IL-21 significantly reduced their potential to induce an antigen-specific CD8+ T cell proliferation. Interestingly, 2h incubation of these DC with IL-21 before injection completely inhibited the potential of these DC to induce a CHS reaction to the hapten fluorescein 5-isothiocyanate in vivo. Mice injected with IL-21-treated DC even failed to mount a CHS response after repetitive injection of non-IL-21-treated DC 2 weeks later, suggesting that an antigen-specific unresponsiveness can be induced by IL-21-treated DC. Our data demonstrate that IL-21 is a new modulator of DC-T cell interaction with the potential to induce DC-mediated antigen-specific tolerance.

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