Basophil-derived IL-4 promotes cutaneous Staphylococcus aureus infection

JCI Insight. 2021 Nov 8;6(21):e149953. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.149953.


Superficial cutaneous Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) infection in humans can lead to soft tissue infection, an important cause of morbidity and mortality. IL-17A production by skin TCRγδ+ cells in response to IL-1 and IL-23 produced by epithelial and immune cells is important for restraining S. aureus skin infection. How S. aureus evades this cutaneous innate immune response to establish infection is not clear. Here we show that mechanical injury of mouse skin by tape stripping predisposed mice to superficial skin infection with S. aureus. Topical application of S. aureus to tape-stripped skin caused cutaneous influx of basophils and increased Il4 expression. This basophil-derived IL-4 inhibited cutaneous IL-17A production by TCRγδ+ cells and promoted S. aureus infection of tape-stripped skin. We demonstrate that IL-4 acted on multiple checkpoints that suppress the cutaneous IL-17A response. It reduced Il1 and Il23 expression by keratinocytes, inhibited IL-1+IL-23-driven IL-17A production by TCRγδ+ cells, and impaired IL-17A-driven induction of neutrophil-attracting chemokines by keratinocytes. IL-4 receptor blockade is shown to promote Il17a expression and enhance bacterial clearance in tape-stripped mouse skin exposed to S. aureus, suggesting that it could serve as a therapeutic approach to prevent skin and soft tissue infection.

Keywords: Bacterial infections; Basophils; Immunology; Infectious disease; Innate immunity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basophils / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Interleukin-4 / adverse effects*
  • Mice
  • Staphylococcal Infections / immunology*
  • Staphylococcal Infections / physiopathology
  • Staphylococcal Skin Infections / immunology*
  • Staphylococcal Skin Infections / physiopathology


  • Interleukin-4