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IL-27 Suppresses Antimicrobial Activity in Human Leprosy.

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The mechanisms by which intracellular pathogens trigger immunosuppressive pathways are critical for understanding the pathogenesis of microbial infection. One pathway that inhibits host defense responses involves the induction of type I interferons and subsequently IL-10, yet the mechanism by which type I IFN induces IL-10 remains unclear. Our studies of gene expression profiles derived from leprosy skin lesions suggested a link between IL-27 and the IFN-β induced IL-10 pathway. Here, we demonstrate that the IL-27p28 subunit is upregulated following treatment of monocytes with IFN-β and Mycobacterium leprae, the intracellular bacterium that causes leprosy. The ability of IFN-β and M. leprae to induce IL-10 was diminished by IL-27 knockdown. Additionally, treatment of monocytes with recombinant IL-27 was sufficient to induce the production of IL-10. Functionally, IL-27 inhibited the ability of IFN-γ to trigger antimicrobial activity against M. leprae in infected monocytes. At the site of disease, IL-27 was more strongly expressed in skin lesions of patients with progressive lepromatous leprosy, correlating and colocalizing with IFN-β and IL-10 in macrophages. Together, these data provide evidence that in the human cutaneous immune responses to microbial infection, IL-27 contributes to the suppression of host antimicrobial responses.

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