Severe respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections are characterized by airway epithelial cell damage, mucus hypersecretion, and Th2 cytokine production. Less is known about the role of IL-17. We observed increased IL-6 and IL-17 levels in tracheal aspirate samples from severely ill infants with RSV infection. In a mouse model of RSV infection, time-dependent increases in pulmonary IL-6, IL-23, and IL-17 expression were observed. Neutralization of IL-17 during infection and observations from IL-17(-/-) knockout mice resulted in significant inhibition of mucus production during RSV infection. RSV-infected animals treated with anti-IL-17 had reduced inflammation and decreased viral load, compared with control antibody-treated mice. Blocking IL-17 during infection resulted in significantly increased RSV-specific CD8 T cells. Factors associated with CD8 cytotoxic T lymphocytes, T-bet, IFN-γ, eomesodermin, and granzyme B were significantly up-regulated after IL-17 blockade. Additionally, in vitro analyses suggest that IL-17 directly inhibits T-bet, eomesodermin, and IFN-γ in CD8 T cells. The role of IL-17 was also investigated in RSV-induced exacerbation of allergic airway responses, in which neutralization of IL-17 led to a significant decrease in the exacerbated disease, including reduced mucus production and Th2 cytokines, with decreased viral proteins. Taken together, our data demonstrate that IL-17 plays a pathogenic role during RSV infections.
Copyright © 2011 American Society for Investigative Pathology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.