Mice heterozygous for the tight-skin (Tsk) mutation develop skin fibrosis. Previous studies have implicated a role for the immune system and, specifically, CD4(+) T cells, in the etiology of skin fibrosis in Tsk/+ mice. We have recently shown that the administration of neutralizing anti-IL-4 antibodies to Tsk/+ mice prevented the development of skin fibrosis in these mice. Since IL-4 is a major cytokine produced by T helper 2 (Th2) cells, we investigated the role of Th2 cells in mediating skin fibrosis in Tsk/+ mice. Previous studies have shown that the development of Th2 cells in non-Tsk mice is abrogated in mice with null mutation for either the IL-4 or the Stat6 gene. In this study we showed that the polarization of CD4(+) T cells from Tsk/+ mice toward the Th2 lineage is also dependent on a functioning IL-4 or Stat6 gene. More importantly, the development of skin fibrosis in Tsk/+ mice was abrogated by the IL4(-/-) or the Stat6(-/-) mutation. We also determined whether alteration of the TCR repertoire in Tsk/+ mice, achieved by the introduction of TCR transgenes, was able to prevent the development of skin fibrosis in Tsk/+ mice. We found that the exclusive usage of the Vbeta8.2 gene segment by T cells was sufficient to prevent skin fibrosis in Tsk/+ mice. This result suggests that the exclusive use of this Vbeta gene segment by T cells may have prevented the development of fibrosis-causing Th2 cells.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.