A distinct role for interleukin-13 in Th2-cell-mediated immune responses

Curr Biol. 1998 Mar 12;8(6):339-42. doi: 10.1016/s0960-9822(98)70134-4.


Immune responses elicited by allergic reactions and parasitic worm infections are characterised by the induction of T helper 2 (Th2) cells. These cells secrete cytokines such as interleukin-4 (IL-4), IL-5 and IL-13, which induce the production of immunoglobulin E (IgE) and eosinophils [1,2]. Previous studies using gastrointestinal nematodes to elucidate the role of Th2-cell-mediated immune responses have demonstrated a causal relationship between T cells and worm expulsion (reviewed in [3]). Although it has been proposed that IL-4 played a central role in these responses, recent studies demonstrated that IL-4-/- mice expel the parasitic gastrointestinal nematode Nippostrongylus brasiliensis normally [4], suggesting that another T-cell mediator is required for efficient worm clearance. Using IL-13-/- mice, we have demonstrated that, unlike wild-type and IL-4-/- mice, the IL-13-/- animals failed to clear N. brasiliensis infections efficiently, despite developing a robust Th2-like cytokine response to infection. Furthermore, treatment of the IL-13-/- mice with exogenous IL-13 resulted in a reduction in the numbers of worms recovered. The IL-13-/- animals also failed to generate the goblet cell hyperplasia that normally occurs coincident with worm expulsion. This observation may link IL-13 with the production of intestinal mucus which is believed to facilitate worm expulsion. These data support a unique role for IL-13 in Th2-cell-mediated immune responses and demonstrate that IL-13 and IL-4 are not redundant.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Helminth / isolation & purification
  • Carcinoid Tumor / immunology
  • Cytokines / isolation & purification
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Immunoglobulin A / isolation & purification
  • Immunoglobulin E / isolation & purification
  • Immunoglobulin G / isolation & purification
  • Interleukin-13 / administration & dosage
  • Interleukin-13 / immunology*
  • Interleukin-13 / isolation & purification
  • Intestinal Diseases, Parasitic / immunology
  • Intestinal Diseases, Parasitic / parasitology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology
  • Lymph Nodes
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nematoda / immunology
  • Recombinant Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Th2 Cells / immunology*
  • Th2 Cells / parasitology


  • Antibodies, Helminth
  • Cytokines
  • Immunoglobulin A
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Interleukin-13
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Immunoglobulin E