PloS one

Tim-3 negatively regulates IL-12 expression by monocytes in HCV infection.

PMID 21637332


T cell immunoglobulin and mucin domain-containing protein 3 (Tim-3) is a newly identified negative immunomodulator that is up-regulated on dysfunctional T cells during viral infections. The expression and function of Tim-3 on human innate immune responses during HCV infection, however, remains poorly characterized. In this study, we report that Tim-3 is constitutively expressed on human resting CD14(+) monocyte/macrophages (M/M(Ø)) and functions as a cap to block IL-12, a key pro-inflammatory cytokine linking innate and adaptive immune responses. Tim-3 expression is significantly reduced and IL-12 expression increased upon stimulation with Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) ligand--lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and TLR7/8 ligand--R848. Notably, Tim-3 is over-expressed on un-stimulated as well as TLR-stimulated M/M(Ø), which is inversely associated with the diminished IL-12 expression in chronically HCV-infected individuals when compared to healthy subjects. Up-regulation of Tim-3 and inhibition of IL-12 are also observed in M/M(Ø) incubated with HCV-expressing hepatocytes, as well as in primary M/M(Ø) or monocytic THP-1 cells incubated with HCV core protein, an effect that mimics the function of complement C1q and is reversible by blocking the HCV core/gC1qR interaction. Importantly, blockade of Tim-3 signaling significantly rescues HCV-mediated inhibition of IL-12, which is primarily expressed by Tim-3 negative M/M(Ø). Tim-3 blockade reduces HCV core-mediated expression of the negative immunoregulators PD-1 and SOCS-1 and increases STAT-1 phosphorylation. Conversely, blocking PD-1 or silencing SOCS-1 gene expression also decreases Tim-3 expression and enhances IL-12 secretion and STAT-1 phosphorylation. These findings suggest that Tim-3 plays a crucial role in negative regulation of innate immune responses, through crosstalk with PD-1 and SOCS-1 and limiting STAT-1 phosphorylation, and may be a novel target for immunotherapy to HCV infection.