B7-H4.Ig inhibits the development of type 1 diabetes by regulating Th17 cells in NOD mice

I-Fang Lee, Xiaojie Wang, Jianqiang Hao, Noushin Akhoundsadegh, Lieping Chen, Linda Liu, Sol Langermann, Dawei Ou, Garth L Warnock
Cellular Immunology 2013, 282 (1): 1-8
Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease characterized by immunological destruction of insulin-producing pancreatic β-cells and subsequent hyperglycemia. The non-obese diabetic (NOD) mouse strain spontaneously develops a disease similar to human T1D and is commonly used as an animal model for studying this disease. We have previously shown that the administration of B7-H4-immunoglobulin fusion protein (B7-H4.Ig), a newly identified T-cell co-inhibitory signaling molecule, blocks the onset of diabetes in NOD mice. However, the mechanism(s) by which B7-H4 protects NOD mice from T1D is not fully understood. IL-17 is a pro-inflammatory cytokine, produced by Th17 cells, that activates T cells and other immune cells to produce a variety of cytokines and chemokines. Increasing evidence has shown that therapeutic agents targeting the IL-17 molecule or directly inhibiting IL-17-producing cells regulate autoimmune diabetes in NOD mice, suggesting that IL-17 is involved in the pathogenesis of this disease. In this study, we investigate whether B7-H4.Ig treatment inhibits the generation of Th17 cells which subsequently decreases IL-17 production and prevents the onset of T1D in NOD mice. Pre-diabetic female NOD mice were injected intraperitoneally with control mouse IgG or B7-H4.Ig starting at 4 weeks of age for 12 weeks. Our data showed that the frequency of Th17 cells in B7-H4.Ig-treated mice was significantly decreased. In addition, our data showed that B7-H4.Ig-treated mice had decreased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines and Th17-associated cytokines, and an increased level of the potent Th17 inhibitor IFN-γ. To further investigate the effect of B7-H4.Ig on differentiation of Th17 cells, we co-cultured splenocytes with Th17-polarizing cytokines in the absence or presence of B7-H4.Ig. Our results indicated that splenocytes, under the Th17 driving conditions in the presence of B7-H4.Ig, had significantly decreased the numbers of Th17 cells compared to cells co-cultured in the absence of B7-H4.Ig. Together, this study suggests that blocking the generation of Th17 cells with the administration of B7-H4.Ig effectively inhibits the development of T1D in NOD mice.

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