Regulation of the interleukin (IL)-12R β2 subunit expression in developing T helper 1 (Th1) and Th2 cells

Susanne J. Szabo, Anand S. Dighe, Ueli Gubler, Kenneth M. Murphy

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865 Scopus citations


The developmental commitment to a T helper 1 (Th1)- or Th2-type response can significantly influence host immunity to pathogens. Extinction of the IL- 12 signaling pathway during early Th2 development provides a mechanism that allows stable phenotype commitment. In this report we demonstrate that extinction of IL-12 signaling in early Th2 cells results from a selective loss of IL-12 receptor (IL-12R) β2 subunit expression. To determine the basis for this selective loss, we examined IL-12R β2 subunit expression during Th cell development in response to T cell treatment with different cytokines. IL-12R β2 is not expressed by naive resting CD4+ T cells, but is induced upon antigen activation through the T cell receptor. Importantly, IL- 4 and IFN-γ were found to significantly modify IL-12 receptor β2 expression after T cell activation. IL-4 inhibited IL-12R β2 expression leading to the loss of IL-12 signaling, providing all important point of regulation to promote commitment to the Th2 pathway. IFN-γ treatment of early developing Th2 cells maintained IL-12R β2 expression and restored the ability of these cells to functionally respond to IL,-12, but did not directly inhibit IL-4 or reduce IFN-γ production. Thus, IFN-γ may prevent early Th cells from premature commitment to the Th2 pathway. Controlling the expression of the IL-12R β2 subunit could be an important therapeutic target for the redirection of ongoing Th cell responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)817-824
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1997


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