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Sustained IL-12 Signaling Is Required for Th1 Development

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Catharien Hilkens


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STAT4 is an essential transcription factor for Th1 cell development. IL-12 and IFN-alpha both activate STAT4, but with different kinetics. In this study we compared their capacities to drive differentiation of human naive Th cells toward the Th1 phenotype. The Th1-polarizing activity of IFN-alpha was much weaker than that of IL-12, correlating with a marked difference in the kinetics of STAT4 activation; the response to IL-12 was sustained (>48 h), whereas the response to IFN-alpha was transient (4 h). The continuous presence of IL-12 was required for sustained STAT4 activation. Similarly, optimal Th1 polarization was only achieved upon prolonged exposure to IL-12 and could not be induced by a transient IL-12 pulse. Furthermore, the cytokine IL-2 potentiated sustained IL-12/STAT4 responses through up-regulation of IL-12R expression and synergized with IL-12 in driving Th1 cell development. Transient IFN-alpha responses, on the other hand, were not prolonged by IL-2. IFN-alpha treatment induced down-regulation of IFN-alphabeta receptor subunit 1, rendering cells refractory to IFN-alpha, but did not trans-inhibit the IL-12/STAT4 response. These data indicate that sustained IL-12 signaling is essential for optimal Th1 cell development and that transient activation of STAT4 in response to IFN-alpha may explain the poor Th1-polarizing capacity of this cytokine. Collectively these data show that the duration of cytokine signaling is important for determining the biological response.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Athie-Morales V, Smits HH, Cantrell DA, Hilkens CM

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Immunology

Year: 2004

Volume: 172

Issue: 1

Pages: 61-69

Print publication date: 01/01/2004

ISSN (print): 0022-1767

ISSN (electronic): 1550-6606

Publisher: American Association of Immunologists


Notes: 0022-1767 Journal Article