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J Immunol. 2011 Apr 1;186(7):3977-85. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1003588. Epub 2011 Feb 28.

IL-27 and IL-21 are associated with T cell IL-10 responses in human visceral leishmaniasis.

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Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


IL-10 is believed to underlie many of the immunologic defects in human visceral leishmaniasis (VL). We have identified CD4(+)CD25(-)Foxp3(-) T cells as the major source of IL-10 in the VL spleen. IL-27, a member of the IL-6/IL-12 cytokine family, has been shown to promote development of IL-10-producing T cells, in part by upregulating their production of autocrine IL-21. We investigated whether IL-27 and IL-21 are associated with human VL. IL-27 was elevated in VL plasma, and at pretreatment, spleen cells showed significantly elevated mRNA levels of both IL-27 subunits, IL-27p28 and EBI-3, as well as IL-21, compared with posttreatment biopsies. CD14(+) spleen cells were the main source of IL-27 mRNA, whereas CD3(+) T cells were the main source of IL-21. IL-27 mRNA could be strongly upregulated in normal donor macrophages with IFN-γ and IL-1β, conditions consistent with those in the VL spleen. Last, a whole-blood assay revealed that most VL patients could produce Ag-specific IFN-γ and IL-10 and that the IL-10 could be augmented with recombinant human IL-21. Thus, proinflammatory cytokines acting on macrophages in the VL spleen have the potential to upregulate IL-27, which in turn can induce IL-21 to expand IL-10-producing T cells as a mechanism of feedback control.

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