During inflammatory immune responses, the innate cytokine IL-12 promotes CD4+ Th-1 development through the activation of the second messenger STAT4 and the subsequent expression of T-bet. In addition, type I IFN (IFN-αβ), secreted primarily during viral and intracellular bacterial infections, can promote STAT4 activation in human CD4+ T cells. However, the role of IFN-αβ in regulating Th1 development is controversial, and previous studies have suggested a species-specific pathway leading to Th1 development in human but not mouse CD4+ T cells. In this study, we found that although both IFN-α and IL-12 can promote STAT4 activation, IFN-α failed to promote Th1 commitment in human CD4 + T cells. The difference between these innate signaling pathways lies with the ability of IL-12 to promote sustained STAT4 tyrosine phosphorylation, which correlated with stable T-bet expression in committed Th1 cells. IFN-α did not promote Th1 development in human CD4+ T cells because of attenuated STAT4 phosphorylation, which was insufficient to induce stable expression of T-bet. Further, the defect in IFN-α-driven Th1 development was corrected by ectopic expression of T-bet within primary naive human CD4+ T cells. These results indicate that IL-12 remains unique in its ability to drive Th1 development in human CD4+ T cells and that IFN-α lacks this activity due to its inability to promote sustained T-bet expression.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy