Human MBP-specific T cells regulate IL-6 gene expression in astrocytes through cell–cell contacts and soluble factors



One of the distinctive features of multiple sclerosis (MS) attacks is homing to the CNS of activated T cells able to orchestrate humoral and cell-based events, resulting in immune-mediated injury to myelin and oligodendrocytes. Of the complex interplay occurring between T cells and CNS constituents, we have examined some aspects of T-cell interactions with astrocytes, the major components of the glial cells. Specifically, we focused on the ability of T cells to regulate the gene expression of interleukin-6 (IL-6) in astrocytes, based on previous evidence showing the involvement of this cytokine in CNS disorders. We found that T-cell adhesion and T-cell soluble factors induce IL-6 gene expression in U251 astrocytes through distinct signaling pathways, respectively, resulting in the activation of NF-κB and IRF-1 transcription factors. In a search for effector molecules at the astrocyte surface, we found that α3β1 integrins play a role in NF-κB activation induced by T-cell contact, whereas interferon-γ (IFN-γ) receptors dominate in IRF-1 induction brought about by T-cell-derived soluble factors. Similar phenomena were observed also in normal fetal astrocyte cultures. We therefore propose that through astrocyte induction, T cells may indirectly regulate the availability of a cytokine which is crucial in modulating fate and behavior of cell populations involved in the pathogenesis of MS inflammatory lesions. GLIA 35:224–233, 2001. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.