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Keywords:

  • collagen-induced arthritis;
  • glycolipid ligand;
  • natural killer T cells;
  • Th1;
  • Th17

Summary

Alpha-carba-GalCer (RCAI-56), a novel synthetic analogue of α-galactosylceramide (α-GalCer), stimulates invariant natural killer T (NK T) cells to produce interferon (IFN)-γ. IFN-γ exhibits immunoregulatory properties in autoimmune diseases by suppressing T helper (Th)-17 cell differentiation and inducing regulatory T cells and apoptosis of autoreactive T cells. Here, we investigated the protective effects of α-carba-GalCer on collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) in mice. First, we confirmed that α-carba-GalCer selectively induced IFN-γ in CIA-susceptible DBA/1 mice in vivo. Then, DBA/1 mice were immunized with bovine type II collagen (CII) and α-carba-GalCer. The incidence and clinical score of CIA were significantly lower in α-carba-GalCer-treated mice. Anti-IFN-γ antibodies abolished the beneficial effects of α-carba-GalCer, suggesting that α-carba-GalCer ameliorated CIA in an IFN-γ-dependent manner. Treatment with α-carba-GalCer reduced anti-CII antibody production [immunoglobulin (Ig)G and IgG2a] and CII-reactive interleukin (IL)-17 production by draining lymph node (DLN) cells, did not induce apoptosis or regulatory T cells, and significantly increased the ratio of the percentage of IFN-γ-producing T cells to IL-17-producing T cells (Th1/Th17 ratio). Moreover, the gene expression levels of IL-6 and IL-23p19, Th17-related cytokines, were reduced significantly in mice treated with α-carba-GalCer. In addition, we observed higher IFN-γ production by NK T cells in α-carba-GalCer-treated mice in the initial phase of CIA. These findings indicate that α-carba-GalCer polarizes the T cell response toward Th1 and suppresses Th17 differentiation or activation, suggesting that α-carba-GalCer, a novel NK T cell ligand, can potentially provide protection against Th17-mediated autoimmune arthritis by enhancing the Th1 response.