J Immunol 2014 Feb 8;192(4):1661-70. Epub 2014 Jan 8.
Department of Pathobiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104;
The cytokine IL-10 has an important role in limiting inflammation in many settings, including toxoplasmosis. In the present studies, an IL-10 reporter mouse was used to identify the sources of this cytokine following challenge with Toxoplasma gondii. During infection, multiple cell types expressed the IL-10 reporter but NK cells were a major early source of this cytokine. These IL-10 reporter(+) NK cells expressed high levels of the IL-12 target genes T-bet, KLRG1, and IFN-γ, and IL-12 depletion abrogated reporter expression. However, IL-12 signaling alone was not sufficient to promote NK cell IL-10, and activation of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) was also required for maximal IL-10 production. NK cells basally expressed the AHR, relevant chaperone proteins, and the AHR nuclear translocator, which heterodimerizes with the AHR to form a competent transcription factor. In vitro studies revealed that IL-12 stimulation increased NK cell AHR levels, and the AHR and AHR nuclear translocator were required for optimal production of IL-10. Additionally, NK cells isolated from T. gondii-infected Ahr(-/-) mice had impaired expression of IL-10, which was associated with increased resistance to this infection. Taken together, these data identify the AHR as a critical cofactor involved in NK cell production of IL-10.