Role of antigen-presenting cells in the polarized development of helper T cell subsets: evidence for differential cytokine production by Th0 cells in response to antigen presentation by B cells and macrophages

D D Duncan, S L Swain
European Journal of Immunology 1994, 24 (10): 2506-14
Immune challenges can elicit polarized responses skewed towards the development of T helper type 1 (Th1) or Th2 T cell subsets. To determine if distinct antigen-presenting cells (APC) populations might selectively influence Th subset development, we studied the role of two key APC populations, B cells and macrophages, in the differentiation of effector Th populations from naive precursor Th in vitro. Antigen (Ag)-specific, naive CD4+ T cells were enriched from a mouse strain, AND, bearing a transgenic alpha/beta T cell receptor (TCR) encoding reactivity with pigeon cytochrome c peptide 88-104. Peptide Ag was used throughout these studies so that differences in the uptake and processing by the two APC populations would not influence the results. Both APC populations, activated B cells and bone marrow-derived macrophages, supported the development of effector Th having the capacity to secrete high levels of cytokines when restimulated. Regardless of APC population present during effector development, exogenous interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) and interleukin-4 (IL-4) had dominant effects on Th subset development. Thus, with both APC populations, effector Th generated in the presence of IFN-gamma acquired a Th1-type cytokine profile, Th generated with IL-4 acquired a Th2-type cytokine profile, and Th generated without IFN-gamma or IL-4 acquired a Th0-type cytokine profile. B cells and macrophages also had equivalent APC function in the restimulation of Th1 and Th2-like effectors, since only minor differences in cytokine production were noted for these effector populations when restimulated with the two APC populations. However, in 8 of 19 experiments, the Th0-like effector population generated in the presence of IL-2 differentially responded to restimulation with B cells and macrophages, secreting significantly more IFN-gamma when restimulated with B cells, and significantly more IL-4 when restimulated with macrophages. We also found that Th effector populations recultured in IFN-gamma or IL-4 assumed a more Th1 or Th2-like phenotype, respectively, regardless of their initial cytokine profile. We conclude that through a subtle capacity to skew cytokine production by a Th0 subset, different APC may selectively influence Th subset development under conditions of prolonged or chronic stimulation in an autocrine fashion.

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