IFN-γ and IL-12 synergize to convert in vivo generated Th17 into Th1/Th17 cells

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Abstract

Th1 and Th17 cells are distinct lineages of effector/memory cells, imprinted for re-expression of IFN-γ and IL-17, by upregulated expression of T-bet and retinoic acid-related orphan receptor γt (RORγt), respectively. Apparently, Th1 and Th17 cells share tasks in the control of inflammatory immune responses. Th cells coexpressing IFN-γ and IL-17 have been observed in vivo, but it remained elusive, how these cells had been generated and whether they represent a distinct lineage of Th differentiation. It has been shown that ex vivo isolated Th1 and Th17 cells are not interconvertable by TGF-β/IL-6 and IL-12, respectively. Here, we show that ex vivo isolated Th17 cells can be converted into Th1/Th17 cells by combined IFN-γ and IL-12 signaling. IFN-γ is required to upregulate expression of the IL-12Rβ2 chain, and IL-12 for Th1 polarization. These Th1/Th17 cells stably coexpress RORγt and T-bet at the single-cell level. Our results suggest a molecular pathway for the generation of Th1/Th17 cells in vivo, which combine the pro-inflammatory potential of Th1 and Th17 cells.

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