Background Correcting Th1/Th2 imbalance with administration of IL-12 before and during antigen challenge holds therapeutic promise in asthma. However, the effects of IL-12 on the established asthmatic responses have not fully been examined.
Objective We investigated whether IL-12 administered after antigen challenge could diminish airway hyper-reactivity (AHR) and eosinophilia in mice actively sensitized to ovalbumin. We also have investigated the ability of administered IL-12 to induce IL-18 receptor (IL-18R) expression that may lead possible synergic action of IL-12 with endogenous IL-18.
Methods C57BL/6 mice immunized to ovalbumin (OVA) by intraperitoneal (i.p.) injection, were challenged three times with an aerosol of OVA every second day for 8 days. Recombinant IL-12 (500 ng) was intravenously administered on a single occasion 1 h after the final challenge of mice. Mice were analysed for effects of IL-12 on AHR, inflammatory cell infiltration and cytokine levels in lung tissue as well as serum immunoglobulin (Ig) E levels. Immunohistochemistry for IL-18R was performed using rat monoclonal antibody specific for murine IL-18Rα (IL-1 receptor related protein; IL-1Rrp).
Results An intravenous IL-12 administration diminished AHR, pulmonary eosinophilia and T lymphocyte infiltration, serum IgE, IL-4 and IL-13 in lung tissue. Expression of IL-18R was induced in the mononuclear cells in the lung of mice exposed to OVA. IL-12 administration enhanced the IL-18R expression compared with the control.
Conclusion These data indicate that IL-12 can attenuate established antigen-induced AHR and inflammation. In this mechanism it would be interpreted as follows: IL-12 administration in OVA-challenged mice decreased IL-4 production and IgE production thereafter through direct effect on inhibiting the activation of established Th2 cells response and also combined effect with up-regulation of IL-18R expression by inflammatory cells in the lung.