Interleukin-4- and interleukin-13-mediated host protection against intestinal nematode parasites

Immunol Rev. 2004 Oct;201:139-55. doi: 10.1111/j.0105-2896.2004.00192.x.


Intestinal worm infections characteristically induce T-helper 2 cell (Th2) cytokine production. We reviewed studies performed with mice infected with either of two intestinal nematode parasites, Nippostrongylus brasiliensis or Trichinella spiralis, that evaluate the importance of the Th2 cytokine interleukin-4 (IL-4) and IL-13 in protection against these parasites. These studies demonstrate that while IL-4/IL-13 protect against both parasites by activating signal transducer and activator of transcription 6 (Stat6) through IL-4 receptor alpha (IL-4Ralpha) ligation, Stat6 activation protects against these parasites through different mechanisms. Stat6-dependent gene transcription promotes expulsion of N. brasiliensis solely through effects on non-bone marrow-derived cells that may include enhancement of intestinal smooth muscle contractility, changes in intestinal epithelial cell function, and increased intestinal mucus secretion. In contrast, Stat6 signaling promotes immunity to T. spiralis both through effects on bone marrow-derived cells that can be reproduced by treating mice with IL-4 or IL-13 and through effects on non-bone marrow-derived cells. The former effects appear to include T-cell-dependent induction of intestinal mastocytosis, while the latter sensitize non-bone marrow-derived cells to mast cell-produced mediators. We argue that a limited ability of the host immune system to distinguish among different nematode parasites has led to the evolution of a stereotyped Th2 response that activates a set of effector mechanisms that protects against most intestinal nematode parasites.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Interleukin-13 / immunology*
  • Interleukin-13 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-4 / immunology*
  • Interleukin-4 / metabolism
  • Intestinal Diseases, Parasitic / immunology*
  • Intestinal Diseases, Parasitic / parasitology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nematode Infections / immunology*
  • Nematode Infections / parasitology
  • Strongylida / immunology
  • Trichinella spiralis / immunology


  • Interleukin-13
  • Interleukin-4