Priming for T helper type 2 differentiation by interleukin 2–mediated induction of interleukin 4 receptor α-chain expression

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Abstract

T helper type 2 (TH2) cells are essential for humoral immunity and host defense. Interleukin 4 (IL-4) drives TH2 differentiation and IL-2 augments the accessibility of Il4 chromatin. Here we demonstrate that IL-2, by inducing binding of STAT5 to the Il4ra locus, which encodes IL-4 receptor α-chain (IL-4Rα), was essential for inducing and maintaining IL-4Rα expression. Although IL-4 induced IL-4Rα expression, T cell receptor–induced IL-4Rα expression was normal in Il4−/− cells but was much lower in Il2−/− cells. Notably, forced IL-4Rα expression restored the TH2 differentiation of Il2−/− cells. Moreover, genome-wide mapping by chromatin immunoprecipitation coupled with sequencing showed broad interaction of the transcription factors STAT5A and STAT5B with genes associated with TH2 differentiation. Our results identify a previously unappreciated function for IL-2 in 'priming' T cells for TH2 differentiation and in maintaining the expression of Il4ra and other genes in TH2-committed cells.

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Figure 1: IL-2 potently induces IL-4Rα expression.
Figure 2: IL-2-induced IL-4Rα expression is independent of IL-4.
Figure 3: STAT5-dependent regulation of IL-4Rα expression.
Figure 4: Analysis of STAT5-binding sites in human IL4R.
Figure 5: Binding of STAT5 to the Il4ra and Il4 loci.
Figure 6: IL-2 is important for TCR-induced IL-4Rα expression.
Figure 7: The extent of IL-4Rα expression influences TH2 cell differentiation.
Figure 8: Retrovirus-mediated expression of IL-4Rα restores the TH2 differentiation of Il2−/− CD4+ T cells.
Figure 9: STAT5-activating cytokines other than IL-2 can increase IL-4Rα expression.

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Acknowledgements

We thank P. Ryan (National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health) for Il4−/− mice; J.X. Lin (National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health) for discussions and real-time PCR primers; J.F. Zhu, H.H. Xue, H.P. Kim and R. Spolski for discussions and technical assistance; L. Hennighausen for support and discussions; and X. Shirley Liu for the 'model-based analysis of ChiP-seq' algorithm. Supported by the Division of Intramural Research of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health.

Author information

W.L. designed and did research, analyzed data, and wrote the paper; D.E.S. analyzed data and wrote the paper; J.O., Y.C., K.C. and T.Y.R. did research; K.Z. analyzed data; W.J.L. designed research, analyzed data and wrote the paper; and all authors reviewed the paper before submission.

Correspondence to Warren J Leonard.

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