IL-4 and IL-10 antagonize IL-12-mediated protection against acute vaccinia virus infection with a limited role of IFN-gamma and nitric oxide synthetase 2.
van Den Broek M., Bachmann MF., Köhler G., Barner M., Escher R., Zinkernagel R., Kopf M.
Resistance or susceptibility to most infectious diseases is strongly determined by the balance of type 1 vs type 2 cytokines produced during infection. However, for viruses, this scheme may be applicable only to infections with some cytopathic viruses, where IFN-gamma is considered as mandatory for host defense with little if any participation of type 2 responses. We studied the role of signature Th1 (IL-12, IFN-gamma) and Th2 (IL-4, IL-10) cytokines for immune responses against vaccinia virus (VV). IL-12-/- mice were far more susceptible than IFN-gamma-/- mice, and primary CTL responses against VV were absent in IL-12-/- mice but remained intact in IFN-gamma-/- mice. Both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells from IL-12-/- mice were unimpaired in IFN-gamma production, although CD4+ T cells showed elevated Th2 cytokine responses. Virus replication was impaired in IL-4-/- mice and, even more strikingly, in IL-10-/- mice, which both produced elevated levels of the proinflammatory cytokines IL-1alpha and IL-6. Thus, IL-4 produced by Th2 cells and IL-10 produced by Th2 cells and probably also by macrophages counteract efficient anti-viral host defense. Surprisingly, NO production, which is considered as a major type 1 effector pathway inhibited by type 2 cytokines, appears to play a limited role against VV, because NO sythetase 2-deficient mice did not show increased viral replication. Thus, our results identify a new role for IL-12 in defense beyond the induction of IFN-gamma and show that IL-4 and IL-10 modulate host protective responses to VV.