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J Biol Chem. 2012 Oct 19;287(43):36012-21. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.390625. Epub 2012 Aug 30.

Novel IL27p28/IL12p40 cytokine suppressed experimental autoimmune uveitis by inhibiting autoreactive Th1/Th17 cells and promoting expansion of regulatory T cells.

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Molecular Immunology Section, Laboratory of Immunology, NEI, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-1857, USA.


IL-12 family cytokines are important in host immunity. Whereas some members (IL-12, IL-23) play crucial roles in pathogenesis of organ-specific autoimmune diseases by inducing the differentiation of Th1 and Th17 lymphocytes, others (IL-27 and IL-35) suppress inflammatory responses and limit tissue injury induced by these T cell subsets. In this study, we have genetically engineered a novel IL27p28/IL12p40 heterodimeric cytokine (p28/p40) that antagonizes signaling downstream of the gp130 receptor. We investigated whether p28/p40 can be used to ameliorate uveitis, a CNS inflammatory disease. Experimental autoimmune uveitis (EAU) is the mouse model of human uveitis and is mediated by Th1 and Th17 cells. We show here that p28/p40 suppressed EAU by inhibiting the differentiation and inflammatory responses of Th1 and Th17 cells while promoting expansion of IL-10(+)- and Foxp3(+)-expressing regulatory T cells. Lymph node cells from mice treated with p28/p40 blocked adoptive transfer of EAU to naïve syngeneic mice by immunopathogenic T cells and suppressive effects of p28/p40 derived in part from antagonizing STAT1 and STAT3 pathways induced by IL-27 and IL-6. Interestingly, IL27p28 also suppressed EAU, but to a lesser extent than p28/p40. The inhibition of uveitogenic lymphocyte proliferation and suppression of EAU by p28/p40 and IL27p28 establish efficacy of single chain and heterodimeric IL-12 family cytokines in treatment of a CNS autoimmune disease. Creation of the biologically active p28/p40 heterodimeric cytokine represents an important proof-of-concept experiment, suggesting that cytokines comprising unique IL-12 α- and β-subunit pairing may exist in nature and may constitute a new class of therapeutic cytokines.

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