Interleukin-4 downregulates CD127 expression and activity on human thymocytes and mature CD8+ T cells

Angela M Crawley, Agatha Vranjkovic, Charlene Young, Jonathan B Angel
European Journal of Immunology 2010, 40 (5): 1396-407
Signaling via the IL-7 receptor complex (IL-7Ralpha/CD127 and IL-2Rgamma/CD132) is required for T-cell development and survival. Decreased CD127 expression has been associated with persistent viral infections (e.g. HIV, HCV) and cancer. Many IL-2Rgamma-sharing (gammaC) cytokines decrease CD127 expression on CD4+ and CD8+ T cells in mice (IL-2, IL-4, IL-7, IL-15) and in humans (IL-2, IL-7), suggesting a common function. IL-4 is of particular interest as it is upregulated in HIV infection and in thyroid and colon cancers. The role of IL-4 in regulating CD127 expression and IL-7 activity in human thymocytes and mature CD8+ T cells is unknown and was therefore investigated. IL-4 decreased CD127 expression on all thymocyte subsets tested and only on naïve (CD45RA+) CD8+ T cells, without altering membrane-bound CD127 mRNA expression. Pre-treatment of thymocytes or CD8+ T cells with IL-4 inhibited IL-7-mediated phosphorylation of STAT5 and decreased proliferation of CD8+ T cells. By downregulating CD127 expression and signaling on developing thymocytes and CD8+ T cells, IL-4 is a potential contributor to impaired CD8+ T-cell function in some anti-viral and anti-tumor responses. These findings are of particular consequence to diseases such as HIV, HCV, RSV, measles and cancer, in which CD127 expression is decreased, IL-7 activity is impaired and IL-4 concentrations are elevated.

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