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J Immunol. 2013 Aug 15;191(4):1818-26. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1300379. Epub 2013 Jul 12.

Critical role of p38 and GATA3 in natural helper cell function.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Keio University School of Medicine, Tokyo 160-8582, Japan.

Erratum in

  • J Immunol. 2014 Aug 1;193(3):1512.


Natural helper (NH) cells, a member of Lin(-)IL-2R(+)IL-7R(+)IL-25R(+)IL-33R(+)GATA3(+) group 2 innate lymphoid cell subset, are characterized by the expression of transcription factors GATA3 and RORα and production of large amounts of Th2 cytokines such as IL-5, IL-6, and IL-13 upon IL-33 stimulation or a combination of IL-2 and IL-25. We have studied the signal transduction pathways critical for the cytokine expression and development of NH cell. Either stimulation with IL-33 or a combination of IL-2 and IL-25 induced p38 activation and phosphorylation of GATA3 in NH cells, and the phosphorylated form of GATA3 bound to the IL-5 and IL-13 promoters. All these events were blocked by SB203580, a p38 inhibitor. Inhibition of p38 also blocked IL-6 production. The mature NH cells lacking Gata3 were impaired in the proliferation and production of IL-5 and IL-13, but not IL-6, indicating that both p38 and GATA3 are critical for the proliferation and production of IL-5 and IL-13 and that the mechanisms downstream of p38 differ between IL-6 and IL-5/IL-13. In contrast, the NH cells lacking RORα showed no impairment in the proliferation and cytokine production, indicating that GATA3 but not RORα plays a pivotal role in the effector functions of mature NH cell. However, deletion of either GATA3 or RORα in hematopoietic stem cells severely blocked the development into NH cells. Our results demonstrate the important roles of p38 and GATA3 in NH cell functions.

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