Background: Interleukin-21 (IL-21) is a T-cell-derived cytokine whose receptor is expressed on a variety of cells and therefore might have pleiotropic roles in the pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In this study, we investigated the involvement of IL-21 signaling in the development of collagen-induced arthritis (CIA), an animal model of RA, using IL-21 receptor knockout (Il21r KO) mice. Methods: Il21r KO mice or wild-type (WT) C57BL/6 mice were immunized with chicken type II collagen (CII) emulsified in complete Freund adjuvant on day 0 and were given a boost injection on day 21. The production of anti-CII antibody, development of T-cell and B-cell subsets, and T-cell responses to CII were analyzed. CIA was induced in Rag2 KO mice to which combinations of WT or Il21r KO CD4 T cells and WT or Il21r KO B cells had been transferred, in order to examine the role of IL-21 signaling in each cell subset. Results: Il21r KO mice were resistant to the development of CIA. CII-specific IgG but not IgM production was impaired in Il21r KO mice. This is consistent with a reduction of germinal center B cells in the draining lymph nodes. In contrast, CII-specific Th1 and Th17 responses were unaffected in Il21r KO mice. There was also no difference in the number of CII-specific follicular helper T cells between WT and Il21r KO mice. By analyzing the development of CIA in T-cell and B-cell mixed transfer experiments, we confirmed that IL-21 receptor expression on B cells, but not on T cells, was essential for the development of CIA. Conclusion: IL-21 signaling in B cells, but not in T cells, plays essential roles in the production of pathogenic autoantibodies that induce CIA development.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Immunology and Allergy