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J Immunol. 2009 Oct 15;183(8):5418-27. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0803227. Epub 2009 Sep 25.

IFN-beta inhibits human Th17 cell differentiation.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.


IFN-beta-1a has been used over the past 15 years as a primary therapy for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS). However, the immunomodulatory mechanisms that provide a therapeutic effect against this CNS inflammatory disease are not yet completely elucidated. The effect of IFN-beta-1a on Th17 cells, which play a critical role in the development of the autoimmune response, has not been extensively studied in humans. We have investigated the effect of IFN-beta-1a on dendritic cells (DCs) and naive CD4(+)CD45RA(+) T cells derived from untreated MS patients and healthy controls in the context of Th17 cell differentiation. We report that IFN-beta-1a treatment down-regulated the expression of IL-1beta and IL-23p19 in DCs, whereas it induced the gene expression of IL-12p35 and IL-27p28. We propose that IFN-beta-1a-mediated up-regulation of the suppressor of cytokine signaling 3 expression, induced via STAT3 phosphorylation, mediates IL-1beta and IL-23 down-regulation, while IFN-beta-1a-induced STAT1 phosphorylation induces IL-27p28 expression. CD4(+)CD45RA(+) naive T cells cocultured with supernatants from IFN-beta-1a-treated DCs exhibited decreased gene expression of the Th17 cell markers retinoic acid-related orphan nuclear hormone receptor c (RORc), IL-17A, and IL-23R. A direct IFN-beta-1a treatment of CD45RA(+) T cells cultured in Th17-polarizing conditions also down-regulated RORc, IL-17A, and IL-23R, but up-regulated IL-10 gene expression. Studies of the mechanisms involved in the Th17 cell differentiation suggest that IFN-beta-1a inhibits IL-17 and induces IL-10 secretion via activated STAT1 and STAT3, respectively. IFN-beta's suppression of Th17 cell differentiation may represent its most relevant mechanism of selective suppression of the autoimmune response in MS.

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