Morphological and functional characterization of IL-12Rβ2 chain on intestinal epithelial cells: Implications for local and systemic immunoregulation

Mari Regoli, Angela Man, Nadhezda Gicheva, Antonio Dumont, Kamal Ivory, Alessandra Pacini, Gabriele Morucci, Jacopo J. V. Branca, Monica Lucattelli, Ugo Santosuosso, Arjan Narbad, Massimo Gulisano, Eugenio Bertelli, Claudio Nicoletti

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Interaction between intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) and the underlying immune systems is critical for maintaining intestinal immune homeostasis and mounting appropriate immune responses. We have previously showed that the T helper type 1 (TH1) cytokine IL-12 plays a key role in the delicate immunological balance in the gut and the lack of appropriate levels of IL-12 had important consequences for health and disease, particularly with regard to food allergy. Here, we sought to understand the role of IL-12 in the regulation of lymphoepithelial cross talk and how this interaction affects immune responses locally and systemically. Using a combination of microscopy and flow cytometry techniques we observed that freshly isolated IECs expressed an incomplete, yet functional IL-12 receptor (IL-12R) formed solely by the IL-12Rβ2 chain that albeit the lack of the complementary IL-12β1 chain responded to ex vivo challenge with IL-12. Furthermore, the expression of IL-12Rβ2 on IECs is strategically located at the interface between epithelial and immune cells of the lamina propria and using in vitro coculture models and primary intestinal organoids we showed that immune-derived signals were required for the expression of IL-12Rβ2 on IECs. The biological relevance of the IEC-associated IL-12Rβ2 was assessed in vivo in a mouse model of food allergy characterized by allergy-associated diminished intestinal levels of IL-12 and in chimeric mice that lack the IL-12Rβ2 chain on IECs. These experimental models enabled us to show that the antiallergic properties of orally delivered recombinant Lactococcus lactis secreting bioactive IL-12 (rLc-IL12) were reduced in mice lacking the IL-12β2 chain on IECs. Finally, we observed that the oral delivery of IL-12 was accompanied by the downregulation of the production of the IEC-derived proallergic cytokine thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP). However, further analysis of intestinal levels of TSLP in IL-12Rβ2−/− mice suggested that this event was not directly linked to the IEC-associated IL-12Rβ2 chain. We interpreted these data as showing that IEC-associated IL12Rβ2 is a component of the cytokine network operating at the interface between the intestinal epithelium and immune system that plays a role in immune regulation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1177
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Publication statusPublished - 29 May 2018


  • IL12Rβ2 chain
  • intestinal epithelial cell
  • immunoregulation
  • mucosal immunity
  • interleukin 12

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