Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)

IL-21 Promotes Pulmonary Fibrosis through the Induction of Profibrotic CD8+ T Cells.

PMID 26519529


Type 2 effector production of IL-13, a demonstrated requirement in models of fibrosis, is routinely ascribed to CD4(+) Th2 cells. We now demonstrate a major role for CD8(+) T cells in a murine model of sterile lung injury. These pulmonary CD8(+) T cells differentiate into IL-13-producing Tc2 cells and play a major role in a bleomycin-induced model of fibrosis. Differentiation of these Tc2 cells in the lung requires IL-21, and bleomycin treated IL-21- and IL-21R-deficient mice develop inflammation but not fibrosis. Moreover, IL-21R-expressing CD8(+) cells are sufficient to reconstitute the fibrotic response in IL-21R-deficient mice. We further show that the combination of IL-4 and IL-21 skews naive CD8(+) T cells to produce IL-21, which, in turn, acts in an autocrine manner to support robust IL-13 production. Our data reveal a novel pathway involved in the onset and regulation of pulmonary fibrosis and identify Tc2 cells as key mediators of fibrogenesis.