High expression of IL-22 suppresses antigen-induced immune responses and eosinophilic airway inflammation via an IL-10-associated mechanism.
ABSTRACT Allergic inflammation in the airway is generally considered a Th2-type immune response. However, Th17-type immune responses also play important roles in this process, especially in the pathogenesis of severe asthma. IL-22 is a Th17-type cytokine and thus might play roles in the development of allergic airway inflammation. There is increasing evidence that IL-22 can act as a proinflammatory or anti-inflammatory cytokine depending on the inflammatory context. However, its role in Ag-induced immune responses is not well understood. This study examined whether IL-22 could suppress allergic airway inflammation and its mechanism of action. BALB/c mice were sensitized and challenged with OVA-Ag to induce airway inflammation. An IL-22-producing plasmid vector was delivered before the systemic sensitization or immediately before the airway challenge. Delivery of the IL-22 gene before sensitization, but not immediately before challenge, suppressed eosinophilic airway inflammation. IL-22 gene delivery suppressed Ag-induced proliferation and overall cytokine production in CD4(+) T cells, indicating that it could suppress Ag-induced T cell priming. Antagonism of IL-22 by IL-22-binding protein abolished IL-22-induced immune suppression, suggesting that IL-22 protein itself played an essential role. IL-22 gene delivery neither increased regulatory T cells nor suppressed dendritic cell functions. The suppression by IL-22 was abolished by deletion of the IL-10 gene or neutralization of the IL-10 protein. Finally, IL-22 gene delivery increased IL-10 production in draining lymph nodes. These findings suggested that IL-22 could have an immunosuppressive effect during the early stage of an immune response. Furthermore, IL-10 plays an important role in the immune suppression by IL-22.