Background: Natural killer T (NKT) cells express a T-cell receptor that recognizes endogenous and environmental glycolipid antigens. Several subsets of NKT cells have been identified, including IFN-γ-producing NKT1 cells, IL-4-producing NKT2 cells, and IL-17-producing NKT17 cells. However, little is known about the factors that regulate their differentiation and respective functions within the immune system.
Objective: We sought to determine whether the polycomb repressive complex 2 protein enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (Ezh2) restrains pathogenicity of NKT cells in the context of asthma-like lung disease.
Methods: Numbers of invariant natural killer T (iNKT) 1, iNKT2, and iNKT17 cells and tissue distribution, cytokine production, lymphoid tissue localization, and transcriptional profiles of iNKT cells from wild-type and Ezh2 knockout (KO) iNKT mice were determined. The contribution of NKT cells to development of spontaneous and house dust mite-induced airways pathology, including airways hyperreactivity (AHR) to methacholine, was also assessed in wild-type, Ezh2 KO, and Ezh2 KO mice lacking NKT cells.
Results: Ezh2 restrains development of pathogenic NKT cells, which induce spontaneous asthma-like disease in mice. Deletion of Ezh2 increased production of IL-4 and IL-13 and induced spontaneous AHR, lung inflammation, mucus production, and IgE. Increased IL-4 and IL-13 levels, AHR, lung inflammation, and IgE levels were all dependent on iNKT cells. In house dust mite-exposed animals Ezh2 KO resulted in enhanced AHR that was also dependent on iNKT cells.
Conclusion: Ezh2 is a central regulator of iNKT pathogenicity and suppresses the ability of iNKT cells to induce asthma-like pathology.
Keywords: Asthma; allergy; epigenetics; inflammation; natural killer T cells.
Copyright © 2019 American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.