Interleukin-21 suppresses the differentiation and functions of T helper 2 cells.

PMID 25351608


T helper type 2 (Th2) cells, which produce interleukin-4 (IL-4), IL-5 and IL-13, control immunity to all forms of allergic inflammatory responses. Interleukin-21 (IL-21) reduces allergic symptoms in murine models and inhibits IL-4-induced IgE secretion by B cells. However, whether or not IL-21 directly affects Th2 cells, which leads to reduced allergic symptoms, is unclear. In this study, we investigated the effects of IL-21 on the differentiation and effector functions of Th2 cells. We found that IL-21 reduced the number of differentiated Th2 cells and these Th2 cells showed a diminished Th2 cytokine production. Interleukin-21 suppressed Th2 cytokine production of already polarized Th2 cells by down-regulation of transcription factor GATA-3. It also induced apoptosis of Th2 cells with decreased anti-apoptotic factor Bcl-2. Intranasal administration of IL-21 at the beginning of ovalbumin (OVA) sensitization or before OVA challenge decreased Th2 cytokines in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid of OVA/alum-immunized allergic mice. In addition, the inhibitory effects of IL-21 on Th2 effector functions can also be found in allergic patients. Our results demonstrate that IL-21 suppresses the development of Th2 cells and functions of polarized Th2 cells. Hence, the administration of IL-21 may be considered for use as a preventive and therapeutic approach when dealing with Th2-mediated allergic diseases.