Critical Role of IRAK-M in Regulating Antigen-Induced Airway Inflammation

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Asthma is an airway epithelium disorder involving allergic lung inflammation. IL-1 receptor-associated kinase M (IRAK-M) is a negative regulator of Toll-like receptor (TLR) signaling on airway epithelial cells and macrophages, and it is known to limit the overproduction of cytokines during the inflammatory process. However, the direct role of IRAK-M in asthma pathogenesis is unclear. In the present study, we found a significant elevation of IRAK-M expression in mouse lungs after ovalbumin (OVA) exposure. Compared with wild-type mice, IRAK-M knockout (KO) mice responded to OVA challenge with significantly worse infiltration of airway inflammatory cells, greater airway responsiveness, higher proinflammatory cytokine levels in lung homogenates, and more prominent T-helper cell type 2 (Th2) and Th17 deviation. OVA exposure also induced higher activities of dendritic cells (DCs) and macrophages from IRAK-M KO mouse lungs. Furthermore, adoptive transfer of either IRAK-M KO bone-marrow-derived DCs or macrophages into wild-type mice aggravated OVA-induced airway inflammation. In vitro experiments showed that IRAK-M KO naive CD4+ T cells were more prone to differentiate into Th17 cells, but not regulatory T cells. Consistently, activation of IκBζ was significantly increased in the absence of IRAK-M, facilitating Th17 polarization. These findings suggest that IRAK-M plays a crucial role in the regulation of allergic airway inflammation by modifying the function of airway epithelia, DCs, and macrophages, and the differentiation of naive CD4+ T cells. Modulation of IRAK-M may provide a novel target for the control of asthma.

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