Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)

Anti-IL-17 therapy restricts and reverses late-term corneal allorejection.

PMID 25754737


Corneal allograft rejection has been described as a Th1-mediated process involving IFN-γ production. However, recent evidence also implicated IL-17 as being involved in acute corneal allograft responses. Our data support that IL-17 is involved in early acute corneal allograft acceptance. However, we decided to extend these studies to include a later phase of rejection in which there is a peak of IL-17 production that is >15-fold higher than that seen during acute rejection and occurs >45 d postengraftment at the onset of late-term rejection. We demonstrate that neutralizing IL-17A at this time significantly reduced corneal graft rejection. Surprisingly, when corneal grafts that are undergoing this later phase of rejection are treated with anti-IL-17A, there is a reversal of both opacity and neovascularization. Compared with the early phase of rejection, the cellular infiltrate is significantly less, with a greatly reduced presence of Gr-1(+) neutrophils and a relative increase in CD4(+) T cells and macrophages. We went on to identify that the cells expressing IL-17 were CD4(+) IL-17(+) T cells and, somewhat surprisingly, IL-17(+) F4/80(+) macrophages within the rejecting corneal allografts. Taken together, these findings describe a distinct late phase of corneal allograft rejection that is likely mediated by Th17 cells; therapeutic neutralization of IL-17A reverses this rejection. This further suggests that IL-17 might serve as an excellent therapeutic target to reduce this form of corneal allograft rejection.