Intestinal mucus-derived nanoparticle–mediated activation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling plays a role in induction of liver natural killer T cell anergy in mice


  • Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.


The Wnt/β-catenin pathway has been known to play a role in induction of immune tolerance, but its role in the induction and maintenance of natural killer T (NKT) cell anergy is unknown. We found that activation of the Wnt pathways in the liver microenvironment is important for induction of NKT cell anergy. We identified a number of stimuli triggering Wnt/β-catenin pathway activation, including exogenous NKT cell activator, glycolipid α-GalCer, and endogenous prostaglandin E2 (PGE2). Glycolipid α-GalCer treatment of mice induced the expression of wnt3a and wnt5a in the liver and subsequently resulted in a liver microenvironment that induced NKT cell anergy to α-GalCer restimulation. We also found that circulating PGE2 carried by nanoparticles is stable, and that these nanoparticles are A33+. A33+ is a marker of intestinal epithelial cells, which suggests that the nanoparticles are derived from the intestine. Mice treated with PGE2 associated with intestinal mucus-derived exosome-like nanoparticles (IDENs) induced NKT cell anergy. PGE2 treatment leads to activation of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway by inactivation of glycogen synthase kinase 3β of NKT cells. IDEN-associated PGE2 also induces NKT cell anergy through modification of the ability of dendritic cells to induce interleukin-12 and interferon-β in the context of both glycolipid presentation and Toll-like receptor–mediated pathways. Conclusion: These findings demonstrate that IDEN-associated PGE2 serves as an endogenous immune modulator between the liver and intestines and maintains liver NKT cell homeostasis. This finding has implications for development of NKT cell–based immunotherapies. (HEPATOLOGY 2013)