IL-33 is a recently characterized IL-1 family member that is proposed to function as an alarmin, or endogenous signal of cellular damage, as well as act as a pleiotropic cytokine. The ability of IL-33 to potentiate both Th1 and Th2 immunity supports its role in pathogen clearance and disease immunopathology. Yet, IL-33 restrains experimental colitis and transplant rejection by expanding regulatory T cells (Treg) via an undefined mechanism. We sought to determine the influence of IL-33 on hematopoietic cells that drives Treg expansion and underlies the therapeutic benefit of IL-33 administration. In this study, we identify a feedback loop in which conventional mouse CD11c+ dendritic cells (DC) stimulated by IL-33 secrete IL-2 to selectively expand IL-33R(ST2+)-suppressive CD4+Foxp3+ Treg. Interestingly, this occurs in the absence of classical DC maturation, and DC-derived (innate) IL-2 increases ST2 expression on both DC and interacting Treg. ST2+ Treg represent an activated subset of Foxp3+ cells, demonstrated to be ICOShighCD44high compared with their ST2- counterparts. Furthermore, although studies have shown that IL-33-exposed DC promote Th2 responses, we reveal that ST2+ DC are required for IL-33-mediated in vitro and in vivo Treg expansion. Thus, we have uncovered a relationship between IL-33 and innate IL-2 that promotes the selective expansion of ST2+ Treg over non-Treg. These findings identify a novel regulatory pathway driven by IL-33 in immune cells that may be harnessed for therapeutic benefit or for robust expansion of Treg in vitro and in vivo.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2014 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.