Primary neonatal T cell responses comprise both T helper (Th) cell subsets, but Th1 cells express high levels of interleukin 13 receptor α1 (IL-13Rα1), which heterodimerizes with IL-4Rα. During secondary antigen challenge, Th2-produced IL-4 triggers the apoptosis of Th1 cells via IL-4Rα/IL-13Rα1, thus explaining the Th2 bias in neonates. We show that neonates acquire the ability to overcome the Th2 bias and generate Th1 responses starting 6 d after birth. This transition was caused by the developmental maturation of CD8α+CD4- dendritic cells (DCs), which were minimal in number during the first few days of birth and produced low levels of IL-12. This lack of IL-12 sustained the expression of IL-13Rα1 on Th1 cells. By day 6 after birth, however, a significant number of CD8α+CD4- DCs accumulated in the spleen and produced IL-12, which triggered the down-regulation of IL-13Rα1 expression on Th1 cells, thus protecting them against IL-4-driven apoptosis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy