Regulatory T cells enhance mast cell production of IL-6 via surface-bound TGF-β

Kirthana Ganeshan, Paul J. Bryce*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Mast cell degranulation is a hallmark of allergic reactions, but mast cells can also produce many cytokines that modulate immunity. Recently, CD25 + regulatory T cells (Tregs) have been shown to inhibit mast cell degranulation and anaphylaxis, but their influence on cytokine production remained unknown. In this study, we show that, rather than inhibit, Tregs actually enhance mast cell production of IL-6. We demonstrate that, whereas inhibition of degranulation was OX40/OX40 ligand dependent, enhancement of IL-6 was due to TGF-β. Interestingly, our data demonstrate that the Treg-derived TGF-β was surface-bound, because the interaction was contact dependent, and no TGF-β was detectable in the supernatant. Soluble TGF-β1 alone was sufficient to enhance mast cell IL-6 production, and these supernatants were sufficient to promote Th17 skewing, but those from Treg-mast cell cultures were not, supporting this being surface-bound TGF-β from the Tregs. Interestingly, the augmentation of IL-6 production occurred basally or in response to innate stimuli (LPS or peptidoglycan), adaptive stimuli (IgE cross-linking by specific Ag), and cytokine activation (IL-33). We demonstrate that TGF-b led to enhanced transcription and de novo synthesis of IL-6 upon activation without affecting IL-6 storage or mRNA stability. In vivo, the adoptive transfer of Tregs inhibited mast cell-dependent anaphylaxis in a model of food allergy but promoted intestinal IL-6 and IL-17 production. Consequently, our findings establish that Tregs can exert divergent influences upon mast cells, inhibiting degranulation via OX40/OX40 ligand interactions while promoting IL-6 via TGF-β.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)594-603
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 15 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology

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