IL-17 Receptor Signaling Influences Virus-Induced Corneal Inflammation

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Journal of leukocyte biology


IL-17 has been associated with selected inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. We characterized the expression of this proinflammatory cytokine following HSV-1 corneal infection and investigated whether IL-17R signaling modulated the host response to the viral pathogen at early time-points postinfection. IL-17 was elevated in the murine cornea 24 h after high-dose virus infection and subsequently persisted at low levels during the first week. Immunofluorescent studies showed that the IL-17R was expressed by cultured mouse corneal fibroblasts. Exposure of corneal cells to IL-17 led to production of IL-6 and MIP-2 in vitro and in vivo, indicating that the IL-17R was functional. Mice lacking IL-17R displayed significantly reduced neutrophil infiltration and corneal opacity. However, this effect was transient, as corneal pathology and neutrophil influx resembled that of wild-type (WT) hosts 4 days postinfection. HSV-1 growth and clearance in IL-17R(-/-) hosts were similar to that of the WT controls. Infection of IFN-gamma gene knockout mice was associated with elevated IL-17 levels and accelerated corneal opacity, suggesting that IFN-gamma negatively regulated IL-17 expression. Collectively, our results establish that IL-17 is rapidly produced in the cornea after HSV-1 infection and is regulated at least in part by IFN-gamma. The absence of IL-17 signaling results in a transient decrease in the expression of proinflammatory mediators, neutrophil migration, and corneal pathology, but control of virus growth in the cornea and trigeminal ganglia is not compromised. Thus, IL-17 actively influences early virus-induced corneal inflammation.

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