Treatment with the TLR7 agonist R848 induces regulatory T-cell-mediated suppression of established asthma symptoms



The evolution of allergic asthma is tightly controlled by effector and regulatory cells, as well as cytokines such as IL-10 and/or TGF-β, and it is widely acknowledged that environmental exposure to allergens and infectious agents can influence these processes. In this context, the recognition of pathogen-associated motifs, which trigger TLR activation pathways, plays a critical role with important consequences for disease progression and outcome. We addressed the question whether the TLR7 ligand resiquimod (R848), which has been shown to be protective in several experimental allergic asthma protocols, can also suppress typical asthma symptoms once the disease is established. To this end, we used an OVA-induced experimental model of murine allergic asthma in which R848 was injected after a series of challenges with aerosolized OVA. We found that the treatment attenuated allergic symptoms through a mechanism that required Tregs, as assessed by the expansion of this population in the lungs of mice having received R848, and the loss of R848-mediated suppression of allergic responses after in vivo Treg depletion. IL-10 provided only a minor contribution to this suppressive effect that was largely mediated through a TGF-β-dependent pathway, a finding that opens new therapeutic opportunities for the pharmacological targeting of Tregs.