Activation of invariant natural killer T cells in regional lymph nodes as new antigen-specific immunotherapy via induction of interleukin-21 and interferon-γ



Invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells play important immunoregulatory functions in allergen-induced airway hyperresponsiveness and inflammation. To clarify the role of iNKT cells in allergic rhinitis (AR), we generated bone marrow-derived dendritic cells (BMDCs), which were pulsed by ovalbumin (OVA) and α-galactosylceramide (OVA/α-GalCer-BMDCs) and administered into the oral submucosa of OVA-sensitized mice before nasal challenge. Nasal symptoms, level of OVA-specific immunoglobulin (IgE), and T helper type 2 (Th2) cytokine production in cervical lymph nodes (CLNs) were significantly ameliorated in wild-type (WT) mice treated with OVA/α-GalCer-BMDCs, but not in WT mice treated with OVA-BMDCs. These anti-allergic effects were not observed in Jα18–/– recipients that lack iNKT cells, even after similar treatment with OVA/α-GalCer-BMDCs in an adoptive transfer study with CD4+ T cells and B cells from OVA-sensitized WT mice. In WT recipients of OVA/α-GalCer-BMDCs, the number of interleukin (IL)-21-producing iNKT cells increased significantly and the Th1/Th2 balance shifted towards the Th1 dominant state. Treatment with anti-IL-21 and anti-interferon (IFN)-γ antibodies abrogated these anti-allergic effects in mice treated with α-GalCer/OVA-BMDCs. These results suggest that activation of iNKT cells in regional lymph nodes induces anti-allergic effects through production of IL-21 or IFN-γ, and that these effects are enhanced by simultaneous stimulation with antigen. Thus, iNKT cells might be a useful target in development of new treatment strategies for AR.