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J Exp Med. 1997 Nov 17;186(10):1737-47.

Induction of airway mucus production By T helper 2 (Th2) cells: a critical role for interleukin 4 in cell recruitment but not mucus production.

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Section of Immunobiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.


Airway inflammation is believed to stimulate mucus production in asthmatic patients. Increased mucus secretion is an important clinical symptom and contributes to airway obstruction in asthma. Activated CD4 Th1 and Th2 cells have both been identified in airway biopsies of asthmatics but their role in mucus production is not clear. Using CD4 T cells from mice transgenic for the OVA-specific TCR, we studied the role of Th1 and Th2 cells in airway inflammation and mucus production. Airway inflammation induced by Th2 cells was comprised of eosinophils and lymphocytes; features found in asthmatic patients. Additionally, there was a marked increase in mucus production in mice that received Th2 cells and inhaled OVA, but not in mice that received Th1 cells. However, OVA-specific Th2 cells from IL-4-deficient mice were not recruited to the lung and did not induce mucus production. When this defect in homing was overcome by administration of TNF-alpha, IL-4 -/- Th2 cells induced mucus as effectively as IL-4 +/+ Th2 cells. These studies establish a role for Th2 cells in mucus production and dissect the effector functions of IL-4 in these processes. These data suggest that IL-4 is crucial for Th2 cell recruitment to the lung and for induction of inflammation, but has no direct role in mucus production.

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