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J Immunol. 1998 Sep 15;161(6):3143-9.

IL-12, but not IFN-gamma, plays a major role in sustaining the chronic phase of colitis in IL-10-deficient mice.

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DNAX Research Institute of Cellular and Molecular Biology, Palo Alto, CA 94304, USA.


IL-10-deficient (IL-10(-/-)) mice develop chronic enterocolitis mediated by CD4+ Th1 cells producing IFN-gamma. Because IL-12 can promote Th1 development and IFN-gamma production, the ability of neutralizing anti-IL-12 mAb to modulate colitis in IL-10(-/-) mice was investigated. Anti-IL-12 mAb treatment completely prevented disease development in young IL-10(-/-) mice. Treatment of adult mice resulted in significant amelioration of established disease accompanied by reduced numbers of mesenteric lymph node and colonic CD4+ T cells and of mesenteric lymph node T cells spontaneously producing IFN-gamma. In contrast, anti-IFN-gamma mAb had minimal effect on disease reversal, despite a significant preventative effect in young mice. These findings suggested that IL-12 sustains colitis by supporting the expansion of differentiated Th1 cells that mediate disease independently of their IFN-gamma production. This conclusion was supported by the finding that anti-IL-12 mAb greatly diminished the ability of a limited number of CD4+ T cells expressing high levels of CD45RB from diseased IL-10(-/-) mice to expand and cause colitis in recombination-activating gene-2(-/-) recipients, while anti-IFN-gamma mAb had no effect. Furthermore, IL-12 could support pathogenic IL-10(-/-) T cells stimulated in vitro in the absence of IL-2. While these studies show that IL-12 plays an important role in sustaining activated Th1 cells during the chronic phase of disease, the inability of anti-IL-12 mAb to abolish established colitis or completely prevent disease transfer by Thl cells suggests that additional factors contribute to disease maintenance.

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