Cytokine-dependent modification of IL-12p70 and IL-23 balance in dendritic cells by ligand activation of Valpha24 invariant NKT cells

J Immunol. 2009 Jul 1;183(1):201-8. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0900873.


CD1d-restricted invariant NKT (iNKT) cells play crucial roles in various types of immune responses, including autoimmune diseases, infectious diseases and tumor surveillance. The mechanisms underlying their adjuvant functions are well understood. Nevertheless, although IL-4 and IL-10 production characterize iNKT cells able to prevent or ameliorate some autoimmune diseases and inflammatory conditions, the precise mechanisms by which iNKT cells exert immune regulatory function remain elusive. This study demonstrates that the activation of human iNKT cells by their specific ligand alpha-galactosylceramide enhances IL-12p70 while inhibiting the IL-23 production by monocyte-derived dendritic cells, and in turn down-regulating the IL-17 production by memory CD4(+) Th cells. The ability of the iNKT cells to regulate the differential production of IL-12p70/IL-23 is mainly mediated by a remarkable hallmark of their function to produce both Th1 and Th2 cytokines. In particular, the down-regulation of IL-23 is markedly associated with a production of IL-4 and IL-10 from iNKT cells. Moreover, Th2 cytokines, such as IL-4 and IL-13 play a crucial role in defining the biased production of IL-12p70/IL-23 by enhancement of IL-12p70 in synergy with IFN-gamma, whereas inhibition of the IFN-gamma-promoted IL-23 production. Collectively, the results suggest that iNKT cells modify the IL-12p70/IL-23 balance to enhance the IL-12p70-induced cell-mediated immunity and suppress the IL-23-dependent inflammatory pathologies. These results may account for the long-appreciated contrasting beneficial and adverse consequence of ligand activation of iNKT cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytokines / physiology*
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Dendritic Cells / metabolism
  • Galactosylceramides / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-12 / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-12 / metabolism*
  • Interleukin-23 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Interleukin-23 / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-23 / metabolism*
  • Ligands
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology*
  • Natural Killer T-Cells / immunology*
  • Natural Killer T-Cells / metabolism
  • Protein Subunits / biosynthesis
  • Protein Subunits / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / metabolism
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta / metabolism*


  • Cytokines
  • Galactosylceramides
  • Interleukin-23
  • Ligands
  • Protein Subunits
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta
  • Valpha24 protein, human
  • alpha-galactosylceramide
  • Interleukin-12