IFN-β Inhibits the Increased Expression of IL-9 during Experimental Autoimmune Uveoretinitis
Yang P (2012) IFN-b Inhibits the Increased Expression of IL-9 during Experimental Autoimmune Uveoretinitis. PLoS
ONE 7(10): e48566. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048566
IFN-b Inhibits the Increased Expression of IL-9 during Experimental Autoimmune Uveoretinitis
Yan Yang 0
Liping Du 0
Min Sun 0
Aize Kijlstra 0
Peizeng Yang 0
Lucienne Chatenoud, Universite Paris Descartes, France
0 1 Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center, Sun Yat-sen University , Guangzhou , P. R. China , 2 The First Affiliated Hospital of Chongqing Medical University, Chongqing Key Laboratory of Ophthalmology and Chongqing Eye Institute , Chongqing , P. R. China , 3 Eye Research Institute Maastricht, Department of Ophthalmology, University Hospital Maastricht , Maastricht , The Netherlands
Purpose: It has been shown that IL-9 plays a proinflammatory role in the pathogenesis of certain autoimmune diseases. This study was designed to investigate the possible role of IL-9 in the development of experimental autoimmune uveoretinitis (EAU) and the effect of IFN-b on its expression. Methods: EAU was induced in B10RIII mice by immunization with interphotoreceptor retinoid-binding protein peptide 161180 (IRBP161-180). IFN-b was administered subcutaneously to IRBP161-180 immunized mice every other day from day one before immunization to the end of the study. Splenocytes and draining lymph node (DLN) cells from EAU mice or control mice or EAU mice treated with IFN-b or PBS were stimulated with anti-CD3/CD28 or IRBP161-180 for 3 days. Nave T cells cultured under Th1 or Th17 polarizing conditions were incubated in the presence or absence of IFN-b for 4 days. Effector/ memory T cells were activated by anti-CD3/CD28 in the presence or absence of IFN-b for 3 days. IFN-b-treated monocytes were cocultured with nave T cells or effector/memory T cells for 3 days. Culture supernatants were collected and IL-9 was detected by ELISA. Results: IL-9 expression in splenocytes and DLN cells was increased in EAU mice during the inflammatory phase and returned back to lower levels during the recovery phase. IFN-b in vivo treatment significantly inhibited EAU activity in association with a down-regulated expression of IL-9. In vitro polarized Th1 and Th17 cells both secreted IL-9 and the addition of IFN-b suppressed production of IL-9 by both Th subsets. Beside its effect on polarized Th cells, IFN-b also suppressed the secretion of IL-9 by effector/memory T cells. However, IFN-b-treated monocytes had no effect on the production of IL-9 when cocultured with nave or effector/memory T cells. Conclusion: IL-9 expression is increased during EAU which could be suppressed by IFN-b.
Funding: This work was supported by Chongqing Key Laboratory of Ophthalmology (CSTC, 2008CA5003) http://www.ctin.ac.cn/View.aspx?id = 14380, Key
Project of National Natural Science Foundation of China (81130019) http://18.104.22.168/portal/Proj_List.asp, National Natural Science Foundation of China
(81070722) http://22.214.171.124/portal/Proj_List.asp, National Natural Science Foundation Project (30973242) http://126.96.36.199/portal/Proj_List.asp, Program
for the Training of a Hundred Outstanding S&T Leaders of Chongqing Municipality, http://cqkjdj.cstc.gov.cn/View.aspx?id = 1000, and Fund for PAR-EU Scholars
Program, http://www.cqhrss.gov.cn/u/cqhrss/news_37398.shtml. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or
preparation of the manuscript.
Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
Experimental autoimmune uveoretinitis (EAU) serves as an
animal model for human uveitis and is widely used to dissect the
immunopathological mechanisms in uveitis and to develop
preventive or therapeutic strategies . EAU can be induced by
immunization with uveitogenic retinal antigens, such as retinal S
antigen , interphotoreceptor retinal-binding protein (IRBP) [3
4] or their polypeptides, or by the adoptive transfer of uveitogenic
T cells , suggesting that uveitis is a T cell-mediated,
organspecific autoimmune disease. IFN-c-producing Th1 cells and
IL17-producing Th17 cells are two types of inflammatory T cells that
play important roles in the development of EAU .
Recently, a new effector T cell subset, Th9 cells, has been
identified , but its role in the pathogenesis of uveitis is not
yet clear. Driven by the combined effects of TGF-b and IL-4, Th9
cells produce large amounts of IL-9 and IL-10. However, IL-9 is
not only produced by Th9 cells. IL-9 was primarily described in
mice and humans as a Th2 cytokine , but recent studies have
identified it as a dominant cytokine produced by Th17 cells [13
14]. IL-9 has been shown to mediate Th17 cell differentiation
[13,15], and in an animal model, IL-9 neutralization and IL-9
receptor deficiency attenuates experimental autoimmune
encephalitis . These findings suggest that IL-9 may play
a proinflammatory role during the development of autoimmune
Previously, we showed that IFN-b could relieve EAU activity
partially by down-regulating IFN-c, IL-17 and up-regulating
IL10 production . Whether IL-9 pays a role during the
development of EAU has not yet been studied and whether
IFN-b can modulate its production in this model is unclear and
was therefore the subject of the study presented here. IL-9
expression by peripheral lymphocytes from spleen and draining
lymph nodes was investigated in EAU mice, and the role of
IFNb in the production of IL-9 was tested both in vivo and in vitro.
The results showed that IL-9 expression was increased in the
active phase of EAU and that IFN-b was able to suppress the
production of IL-9 both in vivo and in vitro.
Animals and Reagents
B10RIII mice (68 weeks), purchased from Jackson Laboratory,
were housed in the animal facilities of the Chongqing Medical
University. Cells were cultured in RPMI 1640 (Gibco BRL;
Invitrogen) supplemented with 1% penicillin/streptomycin and
10% fetal bovine serum. IRBP161180
(SGIPYIISYLHPGNTILHVD) was synthesized by Shanghai Sangon Biological
Engineering Technology & Services Limited Company. CFA
containing 1.0 mg/ml of Mycobacterium tuberculosis was
obtained from Sigma-Aldrich (St. Louis, MO). Murine IL-12, IL-6,
IL-23, and human TGF-b1 were purchased from R&D systems
(Minneapolis, Minn, USA). Murine IFN-b was obtained from PBL
(Piscataway, NJ, USA). Anti-CD3 and anti-CD28 antibodies were
purchased from eBioscience (San Diego, CA, USA).
All animals were treated according to the ARVO Statement for
the Use of Animals in Ophthalmic and Vision Research. The
protocol was approved by the Ethics Committee of the First
Affiliated Hospital of Chongqing Medical University, Chongqing,
China. (Permit Number: 2009-201009).
EAU Induction and Treatment
B10RIII mice (812 weeks) were immunized with a 200 ml
emulsion containing 50 mg IRBP161180 in CFA subcutaneously,
divided among the base of the tail and both thighs. Mice received
an emulsion of 50 ml PBS and 150 ml CFA in the same way as
a control. The clinical and histological scoring of EAU was
performed according to criteria described previously .
Briefly, the severity of EAU was evaluated in a masked fashion on
a scale of 04 based on the number, type, and size of lesions.
Murine IFN-b (1000 U in 100 ul PBS) or the vehicle PBS were
administered subcutaneously to IRBP161180 immunized mice
every other day from day one before immunization until the end of
CD4+CD62L+/2 T cells from normal mice and CD11b+
monocytes from the immunized mice on day 13 were purified
from splenic single-cell suspensions by magnetic-activated cell
sorting using a CD4+CD62L+ T cell and CD11b+ monocytes
isolation kit respectively (Miltenyi Biotec, Palo Alto, CA). The
purity of isolated cells was more than 95%, as identified by flow
On day 13 or day 28 after immunization, splenocytes and
draining lymph node (DLN; inguinal and iliac) cells (26106/ml)
were stimulated with soluble anti-CD3/CD28 (1 mg/ml) or
IRBP161180 (20 mg/ml) for 3 days and the supernatants were
collected to examine IL-9, IL-17 and IFN- c expression.
CD4+CD62L+ nave T cells (1.56106/ml) were stimulated with
soluble anti-CD3/CD28 (1 mg/ml) for 4 days under
Th1polarizing (10 ng/ml IL-12) or Th17-polarizing (20 ng/ml IL-6,
5 ng/ml TGF-b1, and 10 ng/ml IL-23) conditions in the presence
or absence of IFN-b (250 U/ml). CD4+CD62L2 effector/memory
T cells (1.56106/ml) were stimulated with soluble anti-CD3/
CD28 (1 mg/ml) for 3 days in the presence or absence of
IFNb (250 U/ml). Supernatants of the cell cultures were collected after
centrifugation and used to detect the expression of IL-9.
Coculture of IFN-b Treated Monocytes with CD4+CD62L+/
2 T Cells
Monocytes were stimulated with or without IFN-b (250 U/ml)
for 24 hours. After washing with PBS, they were cultured with
CD4+CD62L+ nave T cells or CD4+CD62L2 effector/memory T
cells at a ratio of 1:5 in the presence of soluble anti-CD3/CD28
(1 mg/ml) for 3 days. Supernatants were collected to detect the
expression of IL-9.
Levels of IL-9 were measured using commercially available
ELISA kits (eBioscience) according to the manufacturers
instructions with a detection limit of 30 pg/ml. The expression of IL-17
and IFN-c in cell culture supernatants was detected using Duoset
ELISA development kits (R&D Systems, Minneapolis, MN) with
detection limits of 15.6 pg/ml and 31.3 pg/ml, respectively.
IL-9 Expression is Increased during the Active Phase of
Splenocytes and DLN cells obtained from inflammatory phase
EAU mice (day 13), recovery phase EAU mice (day 28), and
control mice were stimulated with anti-CD3/CD28 or IRBP161
180 and the supernatants were assessed for IL-9 expression
(Figure 1). The results showed that when activated by
antiCD3/CD28, IL-9 expression in DLN cells was significantly higher
in the inflammatory phase EAU mice than the control mice
(2712.66616.7 pg/ml vs. 501.86129.2 pg/ml, P = 0.004). During
the recovery phase, the level of IL-9 decreased, and there was no
difference as compared to levels observed in cells obtained from
control mice (561.36199.7 pg/ml vs. 501.86129.2 pg/ml,
P = 0.635). No differences were observed between inflammatory
phase EAU mice, recovery EAU mice and control mice
concerning the production of IL-9 (188.56106.4 pg/ml,
163.7647.8 pg/ml, 147.4660.0 pg/ml, P = 0.357) when we
tested splenocytes. Levels of IL-9 following anti-CD3/CD28
stimulation were much lower in splenocytes than in DLN cells.
When activated by the specific antigen IRBP161180, IL-9 was
detected in both splenocytes and DLN cells during the
inflammatory phase of EAU. Much higher IL-9 was found in DLN
as compared to splenocytes. In the recovery phase, IL-9 in
splenocytes became undetectable. The production of IL-9 in IRBP
stimulated DLN cells also decreased during the recovery phase as
compared to the inflammatory phase but could still be detected
(90.5631.2 pg/ml vs. 265.1649.0 pg/ml, P = 0.001). We also
found that IRBP stimulated the expression of IL-9, IL-17 and
IFN-c and that these lymphokines reached their peak during the
inflammatory phage of EAU (Figure 1C). The peak of IL-17
Figure 1. The expression of IL-9 in the EAU mice and the control mice. Splenocytes and DLN cells, obtained from the EAU mice
(inflammatory phase and recovery phase) or control mice (n = 5 per group), were activated with anti-CD3/D28 (1 mg/ml) (A) or IRBP161180 (20 mg/ml)
(B) for 3 days. IL-9 was analyzed by ELISA. Splenocytes (C) and DLN cells (D), obtained from the immunized mice on indicated time points, were
stimulated with IRBP161180 (20 mg/ml) for 3 days, and the supernatants were collected for measuring IL-9, IL-17 and IFN-c. Data are representative of
three independent experiments. ND: not detected.
production was shown to coincide with the peak of IL-9
production both in splenocytes and DLN.
In vivo Treatment of IFN-b Suppresses IL-9 Production in
After multiple administration of IFN-b to EAU mice, its effect
on EAU activity and IL-9 production by stimulated splenocytes or
DLN cells was assessed. As we reported previously,
IFNb significantly inhibited EAU activity during the inflammatory
phase, as judged by both clinical and pathological evaluation .
In the present study, we found that the production of IL-9 by
antiCD3/CD28 or IRBP peptide stimulated splenocytes and DLN
cells was significantly suppressed in IFN-b-treated mice as
compared with the control PBS-treated mice (PBS-treated mice
vs. IFN-b-treated mice, activated by anti-CD3/
CD28:211.8638.0 pg/ml vs. 102.9628.7 pg/ml in splenocytes;
2978.06687.3 pg/ml vs. 1116.16329.2 pg/ml in DLN, both
P,0.001. Activated by IRBP161180:78.0611.4 pg/ml vs. not
detected in splenocytes; 225.9657.6 pg/ml vs. 96.6635.6 pg/ml
in DLN, P = 0.001) (Figure 2).
IFN-b Inhibits IL-9 Production in vitro
Since Th1 and Th17 cells are implicated in the development of
EAU, and IL-9 is also produced by these two Th subsets, we
investigated whether IFN-b could influence the production of IL-9
by Th1 and Th17 cells. Nave T cells were cultured under Th1 or
Th17 polarizing conditions and IL-9 expression was investigated
following anti-CD3/CD28 stimulation. We found that IL-9
production by Th17 cells was much higher than that by Th1
cells (4582.16140.9 pg/ml vs. 75.5623.6 pg/ml, P,0.001).
Addition of IFN-b to the cultures markedly suppressed IL-9
production by both lymphocyte subsets. In the polarized Th1 cells,
IFN-b treatment decreased the level of IL-9 below the detection
limit (Figure 3A). In the polarized Th17 cells, IL-9 production
decreased by more than 60% in the IFN-b treated group
(4582.1 pg/ml to 1555.2 pg/ml, P,0.001) (Figure 3B).
IFN-b also suppressed IL-9 production by effector/memory T
cells stimulated with anti-CD3/CD28 (206.7660.6 pg/ml vs.
65.2610.6 pg/ml, P = 0.016) (Figure 3C).
We previously found that IFN-b could inhibit IL-17 production
by polarized Th17 cells indirectly through monocytes . A
further study was performed to test whether IFN-b-treated
monocytes could also exert a suppressing effect on IL-9
production. However, the results showed that IFN-b-treated
monocytes did not influence IL-9 production when cocultured with
nave T cells or with effector/memory T cells (Figure 4).
In this study we showed that production of IL-9 was
upregulated during the active phase of EAU. IFN-b treatment
Figure 2. Effect of IFN-b treatment on IL-9 production. Splenocytes (A) and DLN cells (B) from the immunized mice following IFN-b or PBS
treatment were activated with IRBP161180 (20 mg/ml) or anti-CD3/CD28 (1 mg/ml) for 3 days. IL-9 was analyzed by ELISA. Data are representative of
three independent experiments with at least five mice per group. ND: not detected.
suppressed EAU inflammatory activity and was associated with
a significantly decreased expression of IL-9.
Until now only few groups have addressed the role of IL-9 in the
pathogenesis of uveitis. IL-9 has been shown to enhance
proliferation and IFN-c production by an IRBP specific T cell line
 and analysis of aqueous humor from uveitis patients reveals
an increased IL-9 mRNA and protein level . To our
knowledge this is the first study investigating the role of IL-9 and
IFN-b in EAU and supports the earlier studies suggesting a role for
this cytokine in the pathogenesis of uveitis. A previous study by
Tan et al.  reported that adoptive transfer of antigen specific
Th9 cell lines was able to cause inflammation in recipient eyes
expressing the antigen hen egg lysozyme. This intraocular
inflammation model differs from ours with respect to the inciting
antigen, but it does show a direct role for IL-9 producing cells in its
pathogenesis. To prove a direct role for IL-9 in the development of
IRBP induced EAU, further experiments using adoptive transfer,
IL-9 blockade and IL-9 knockout animals are needed.
We studied the role of IL-9 and IFN-b during EAU by testing
the cells obtained from the draining lymph nodes and spleens.
These experiments revealed that IFN-b treatment markedly
inhibited IRBP161180-specific production of IL-9. Further
experiments with purified lymphocyte subsets showed that
IFNb significantly inhibited IL-9 secretion by polarized Th1, Th17
cells and effector/memory T cells. In our previous study, we also
demonstrated that IFN-b could significantly inhibit Th17
differentiation , which is in accordance with the prior observations
by others . In the present study, we observed that IL-9
production was much higher under Th17 polarization conditions
and that IFN-b could significantly inhibit this secretion. However,
the suppression on IL-9 production by IFN-b may not be specific,
since the decreased level of IL-9 noticed here could also be due to
an effect on Th17 differentiation leading to a lower amount of
We further tested that whether IFN-b inhibited IL-9 production
indirectly through monocytes. The results showed that
IFN-btreated monocytes did not influence IL-9 production when
cocultured with nave T cells or effector/memory T cells.
Combined with the previously reported observation that
IFNb inhibited Th17 cells differentiation in vivo  and in vitro [23
24,26], indicates that the amelioration of disease by
IFNb treatment may possibly not be due to the decreased level of
Figure 3. Effect of IFN-b on IL-9 production by polarized Th1, Th17 cells and effctor/memory T cells. Nave T cells cultured with or
without IFN-b in Th1-polarizing conditions (10 ng/ml IL-12) (A) or Th17-polarizing conditions (20 ng/ml IL-6, 5 ng/ml TGF-b1 and 10 ng/ml IL-23) (B)
for 4 days. Effector/memory T cells were cultured with or without IFN-b for 3 days. IL-9 was analyzed by ELISA. Data are representative of three
IL-9 production by antigen specific cells but due to a decreased
number of Th17 cells. Further studies are needed to clarify this
When testing the DLN cells or splenocytes we did not observe
a constitutive production of IL-9. The cells needed to be
stimulated with anti-CD3/CD28 or the inciting IRBP peptide to
generate IL-9 expression. As expected a higher response was
observed when stimulating with anti-CD3/CD28 as compared to
using IRBP peptide. Furthermore a higher IL-9 response was
observed in DLN cells than in splenocytes. When using anti-CD3/
CD28 as a second signal for T cell stimulation, there was no
difference in IL-9 production in splenocytes between the
inflammatory phase EAU mice, recovery phase EAU mice and the
control mice. The explanation for the latter observation is not
clear but may be due to a higher level of antigen specific cells in
the DLN as compared to the spleen. On the other hand the
unresponsiveness by splenocytes might be due to the local
environment in the spleen during the induction of EAU. In our
previous study , we found an increased expression of IFN-b in
the inflammatory phase of EAU and the IFN-b was mainly
produced by splenocytes but not by DLN cells. It is possible that
the high endogenous splenic IFN-b may influence IL-9
A study performed in humans showed that IFN-b pre-treated
APC was able to inhibit MBP-specific T cell proliferation . In
our previous study we showed that IFN-b could directly reduce T
cell proliferation, but we failed to find that IFN-b-treated
monocytes could also reduce T cell proliferation . Further
reports showed that in IFN-b-treated Multiple Sclerosis patients, T
cell proliferation was markedly reduced . In view of these
findings, we suspected that our treatment strategy of IFN-b from
the very early phase of the disease alleviated EAU partially though
directly inhibiting general T cell proliferation, not specifically
decreasing the IL-9 producing cells. Whether the treatment
strategy of IFN-b or IFN-b-treated antigen specific Th cells during
the adaptive phase also suppressed inflammation needs further
Previous studies have shown that IL-9 plays a pro-inflammatory
role during the development of autoimmune disease [1415,30
33]. Our findings during EAU support a pro-inflammatory role of
IL-9, but recent studies have pointed out a dual role for this
cytokine and have suggested an anti-inflammatory function
depending on the phase of the immune response . Initial
studies in the experimental autoimmune encephalitis model
showed that IL-9 neutralization or IL-9 knock out could attenuate
disease [1415,32] but recent studies indicate that IL-9 may also
play a role in Treg function whereby the outcome of the
autoimmune disease may depend on the IL-9 mediated regulation
of the Treg/Th17 balance . Further studies using IL-9
neutralization or IL-9 knockout mice are needed to examine the
exact role of IL-9 during the development of EAU and whether
timing of IL-9 during the immune response may lead to a different
outcome of the intraocular inflammatory response. This
knowledge is necessary before a role of IL-9 in the treatment of uveitis
can be envisaged.
Conceived and designed the experiments: YY LD MS PY. Performed the
experiments: YY MS. Analyzed the data: YY LD MS. Contributed
reagents/materials/analysis tools: PY. Wrote the paper: YY AK PY.
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