The Effects of Adoptively Transferred IL-23/IL-18-Polarized Neutrophils on Tumor and Collagen-Induced Arthritis in Mice

J Inflamm Res. 2021 Sep 16;14:4669-4686. doi: 10.2147/JIR.S329528. eCollection 2021.


Background: Neutrophils present great diverse phenotypes in various microenvironments and play different immune regulatory functions. Neutrophils generally classified into inflammatory phenotype N1 and anti-informatory phenotype N2. Our recent studies showed that IL-23 alone stimulated neutrophils to express IL-17A, IL-17F and IL-22 and displayed a gene transcriptional profile similar to Th17 cells. In the present study, we tried to identify potential cytokines to promote IL-23-induced neutrophil polarization.

Methods: Mouse bone marrow-derived neutrophils and human peripheral blood neutrophils were treated with IL-23 (10 ng/mL) plus IL-18 (25 ng/mL) to induce Th17-like subset in vitro and detected by real-time PCR, flow cytometry, ELISA, immunofluorescence and RNA-seq assays. In vivo, collagen-induced arthritis (CIA) mouse model and EL4 tumor-bearing mouse model were used to characterize the potential roles of N(IL-23+IL-18) in inflammation and tumor.

Results: Real-time PCR, ELISA and flow cytometry assays showed that IL-18 could significantly enhance IL-23-induced IL-17A, IL-17F and IL-22 expressions in mouse and human neutrophils in a synergistic way, although IL-18 alone failed to induce these cytokines expression. RNA-seq and molecular studies showed that the polarization of N(IL-23+IL-18) is mainly mediated by the JNK/p38-STAT3-BATF signaling pathway. Adoptive transfer of the induced N(IL-23+IL-18) neutrophils significantly accelerated the tumor growth in EL4 tumor-bearing mice and enhanced disease progression in the CIA mouse model. IL-17A-deficient N(IL-23+IL-18) neutrophils failed to enhance the CIA pathogenesis in this model, suggesting that IL-17A may be involved in the N(IL-23+IL-18) neutrophils-promoted arthritis in mice.

Conclusion: The Th17-type subpopulation N(IL-23+IL-18) has pro-tumor and pro-inflammatory properties. Recognizing the different functional polarization of neutrophils would significantly help us to understand the distinctive protective/pathological roles of neutrophils in physiological and different pathological situations.

Keywords: IL-18; IL-23; arthritis; neutrophils; polarization; tumor.