Regulation of human Th9 differentiation by type I interferons and IL-21
Interleukin (IL)-9-producing CD4+ T cells are a novel subset of T helper (Th) cells that develops independently of the Th1, Th2, Th17 and regulatory T-cell lineages. Similar to the murine model, transforming growth factor (TGF)-β and IL-4 directed human naive CD4+ T cells to produce IL-9. Whereas IL-4 suppressed TGF-β-induced Foxp3 expression, TGF-β failed to inhibit IL-4-mediated upregulation of the Th2 transcription factor GATA-3. Addition of IL-1β, IL-6, IL-10, interferon (IFN)-α, IFN-β or IL-21 to Th9-polarizing conditions augmented Th9 differentiation, while the Th1-associated cytokines IFN-γ and IL-27 partially suppressed IL-9 production. Given that T cells are a primary source of IL-21, IL-21 expression was analyzed under Th9-polarizing conditions in the context of inflammatory cytokines. Surprisingly, type I IFNs induced elevated levels of IL-21, and blockade of IL-21 abrogated their ability to enhance Th9 differentiation. Taken together, these data indicate a complex cytokine network in the regulation of human IL-9-producing CD4+ T cells.