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J Immunol. 2012 May 1;188(9):4602-10. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1200021. Epub 2012 Apr 2.

NIK prevents the development of hypereosinophilic syndrome-like disease in mice independent of IKKα activation.

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Department of Infectious Diseases, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN 38105, USA.


Immune cell-mediated tissue injury is a common feature of different inflammatory diseases, yet the pathogenetic mechanisms and cell types involved vary significantly. Hypereosinophilic syndrome (HES) represents a group of inflammatory diseases that is characterized by increased numbers of pathogenic eosinophilic granulocytes in the peripheral blood and diverse organs. On the basis of clinical and laboratory findings, various forms of HES have been defined, yet the molecular mechanism and potential signaling pathways that drive eosinophil expansion remain largely unknown. In this study, we show that mice deficient of the serine/threonine-specific protein kinase NF-κB-inducing kinase (NIK) develop a HES-like disease, reflected by progressive blood and tissue eosinophilia, tissue injury, and premature death at around 25-30 wk of age. Similar to the lymphocytic form of HES, CD4(+) T cells from NIK-deficient mice express increased levels of Th2-associated cytokines, and eosinophilia and survival of NIK-deficient mice could be prevented completely by genetic ablation of CD4(+) T cells. Experiments based on bone marrow chimeric mice, however, demonstrated that inflammation in NIK-deficient mice depended on radiation-resistant tissues, implicating that NIK-deficient immune cells mediate inflammation in a nonautonomous manner. Surprisingly, disease development was independent of NIK's known function as an IκB kinase α (IKKα) kinase, because mice carrying a mutation in the activation loop of IKKα, which is phosphorylated by NIK, did not develop inflammatory disease. Our data show that NIK activity in nonhematopoietic cells controls Th2 cell development and prevents eosinophil-driven inflammatory disease, most likely using a signaling pathway that operates independent of the known NIK substrate IKKα.

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