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The human nasopharynx is frequently exposed to microbial pathogens, including superantigen-producing Staphylococcus aureus (SAg-Sau), which activates potent pro-inflammatory T cell responses. However, cellular mechanisms that control SAg-Sau-driven T cell activation are poorly understood. Using human nasopharynx-associated lymphoid tissue (NALT), we show that SAg-Sau drove a strong Th17 activation, which was associated with an impaired CD4+ T cell-mediated immune regulation. This impairment of immune control correlated with a significant downregulation of interleukin-35 (IL-35) expression in tonsillar CD4+ T cells by SAg-Sau. Supplementing recombinant IL-35 suppressed SAg-Sau-activated Th17 responses, and this IL-35-mediated suppression positively correlated with the level of Th17 activation. Interestingly, SAg-Sau stimulation induced Foxp3+ Treg expansion and interleukin-10 (IL-10) production, which effectively suppressed the Th1 response, but failed to control the activation of Th17 cells. Overall, our results reveal an aberrant T cell regulation on SAg-Sau-driven Th17 activation and identify IL-35 as a critical cytokine to control superantigenic S.aureus-activated Th17 responses.


Rong Xu, Rebecca K Shears, Ravi Sharma, Madhan Krishna, Christopher Webb, Richard Ali, Xiaoqing Wei, Aras Kadioglu, Qibo Zhang. IL-35 is critical in suppressing superantigenic Staphylococcus aureus-driven inflammatory Th17 responses in human nasopharynx-associated lymphoid tissue. Mucosal immunology. 2020 May;13(3):460-470

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PMID: 31896761

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