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AbstractIL-21 is produced predominantly by activated CD4+ T cells and has pleiotropic effects on immunity via the IL-21 receptor (IL-21R), a member of the common gamma chain (γc) cytokine receptor family. We show that IL-21 signaling plays a crucial role in T cell responses during Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection by augmenting CD8+ T cell priming, promoting T cell accumulation in the lungs, and enhancing T cell cytokine production. In the absence of IL-21 signaling, more CD4+ and CD8+ T cells in chronically infected mice express the T cell inhibitory molecules PD-1 and TIM-3. We correlate these immune alterations with increased susceptibility of IL-21R−/− mice, which have increased lung bacterial burden and earlier mortality compared to WT mice. Finally, to causally link the immune defects with host susceptibility, we use an adoptive transfer model to show that IL-21R−/− T cells transfer less protection than WT T cells. These results prove that IL-21 signaling has an intrinsic role in promoting the protective capacity of T cells. Thus, the net effect of IL-21 signaling is to enhance host resistance to M. tuberculosis. These data position IL-21 as a candidate biomarker of resistance to tuberculosis.

Original publication





Scientific Reports


Springer Science and Business Media LLC

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