Purpose: To determine the immunosuppressive status of aqueous humor (AqH) from mouse eyes afflicted with endotoxin-induced uveitis (EIU) and to identify the relevant cytokines responsible for immunomodulatory activity within EIU AqH.
Methods: Bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) was injected into hind footpads of C3H/HeN mice; and AqH, collected at 6, 12, 24, and 48 hours, was evaluated for content of transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, interleukin (IL)-1beta, IL-6, and interferon (IFN)-gamma and capacity to suppress anti-CD3-driven T-cell proliferation. Cytokine mRNA expression in iris-ciliary body (I/CB) was analyzed by RNase protection assays.
Results: During 6 to 24 hours after LPS injection, total TGF-beta levels in AqH increased even though the fluid lost its capacity to suppress T-cell activation. At this time, AqH contained high levels of IL-6, and I/CB contained high levels of IL-6 mRNA. When IL-6 was neutralized with specific antibodies, inflamed AqH reacquired its capacity to suppress T-cell activation, which correlated with high levels of TGF-beta. Coinjection of IL-6 plus antigen into the anterior chamber of the eye of normal mice prevented antigen-specific anterior chamber-associated immune deviation (ACAID).
Conclusions: LPS-induced intraocular inflammation is associated with local production of IL-6, which robs AqH of its immunosuppressive activity, perhaps by antagonizing TGF-beta. The fact that IL-6 antagonized ACAID induction in normal eyes suggests that strategies to suppress the intraocular synthesis of IL-6 may reduce inflammation and restore ocular immune privilege.