Activation of c-Kit in dendritic cells regulates T helper cell differentiation and allergic asthma

Nat Med. 2008 May;14(5):565-73. doi: 10.1038/nm1766. Epub 2008 May 4.


Dendritic cells (DCs) are integral to the differentiation of T helper cells into T helper type 1 T(H)1, T(H)2 and T(H)17 subsets. Interleukin-6 (IL-6) plays an important part in regulating these three arms of the immune response by limiting the T(H)1 response and promoting the T(H)2 and T(H)17 responses. In this study, we investigated pathways in DCs that promote IL-6 production. We show that the allergen house dust mite (HDM) or the mucosal adjuvant cholera toxin promotes cell surface expression of c-Kit and its ligand, stem cell factor (SCF), on DCs. This dual upregulation of c-Kit and SCF results in sustained signaling downstream of c-Kit, promoting IL-6 secretion. Intranasal administration of antigen into c-Kit-mutant mice or neutralization of IL-6 in cultures established from the lung-draining lymph nodes of immunized wild-type mice blunted the T(H)2 and T(H)17 responses. DCs lacking functional c-Kit or those unable to express membrane-bound SCF secreted lower amounts of IL-6 in response to HDM or cholera toxin. DCs expressing nonfunctional c-Kit were unable to induce a robust T(H)2 or T(H)17 response and elicited diminished allergic airway inflammation when adoptively transferred into mice. Expression of the Notch ligand Jagged-2, which has been associated with T(H)2 differentiation, was blunted in DCs from c-Kit-mutant mice. c-Kit upregulation was specifically induced by T(H)2- and T(H)17-skewing stimuli, as the T(H)1-inducing adjuvant, CpG oligodeoxynucleotide, did not promote either c-Kit or Jagged-2 expression. DCs generated from mice expressing a catalytically inactive form of the p110delta subunit of phosphatidylinositol-3 (PI3) kinase (p110(D910A)) secreted lower amounts of IL-6 upon stimulation with cholera toxin. Collectively, these results highlight the importance of the c-Kit-PI3 kinase-IL-6 signaling axis in DCs in regulating T cell responses.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adoptive Transfer
  • Animals
  • Antigens, Dermatophagoides / immunology
  • Asthma / immunology*
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology*
  • Cholera Toxin / immunology
  • Dendritic Cells / metabolism*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Expression Regulation / immunology*
  • Interleukin-6 / genetics
  • Interleukin-6 / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Microarray Analysis
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit / metabolism*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer / cytology*


  • Antigens, Dermatophagoides
  • Interleukin-6
  • Cholera Toxin
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE10815