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J Exp Med. 1997 Mar 3;185(5):817-24.

Regulation of the interleukin (IL)-12R beta 2 subunit expression in developing T helper 1 (Th1) and Th2 cells.

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Department of Pathology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.


The developmental commitment to a T helper 1 (Th1)- or Th2-type response can significantly influence host immunity to pathogens. Extinction of the IL-12 signaling pathway during early Th2 development provides a mechanism that allows stable phenotype commitment. In this report we demonstrate that extinction of IL-12 signaling in early Th2 cells results from a selective loss of IL-12 receptor (IL-12R) beta 2 subunit expression. To determine the basis for this selective loss, we examined IL-12R beta 2 subunit expression during Th cell development in response to T cell treatment with different cytokines. IL-12R beta 2 is not expressed by naive resting CD4+ T cells, but is induced upon antigen activation through the T cell receptor. Importantly, IL-4 and IFN-gamma were found to significantly modify IL-12 receptor beta 2 expression after T cell activation. IL-4 inhibited IL-12R beta 2 expression leading to the loss of IL-12 signaling, providing an important point of regulation to promote commitment to the Th2 pathway. IFN-gamma treatment of early developing Th2 cells maintained IL-12R beta 2 expression and restored the ability of these cells to functionally respond to IL-12, but did not directly inhibit IL-4 or induce IFN-gamma production. Thus, IFN-gamma may prevent early Th cells from premature commitment to the Th2 pathway. Controlling the expression of the IL-12R beta 2 subunit could be an important therapeutic target for the redirection of ongoing Th cell responses.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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