Interleukin (IL) 22 mRNA in systemic sclerosis (SSc) skin and Th22 cells in SSc peripheral blood are increased, but the role of IL-22 in fibrosis development remains poorly understood.Methods
Biopsies were obtained from the involved skin of 15 SSc, 4 morphea and 8 healthy donors (HD). The presence of IL-22+ cells in the skin was determined by immunostaining. The in vitro response of HD and SSc fibroblasts to IL-22, IL-22 in conjunction with tumour necrosis factor (TNF) or keratinocyte conditioned medium was assessed by ELISA, radioimmunoassay (RIA), real-time PCR and western blot. The in vivo response in mice was assessed by histomorphometry.Results
IL-22+ cells were over-represented in the dermis and epidermis of morphea and in the epidermis of SSc compared with HD. The majority of dermal IL-22+ cells were T cells. Dermal fibroblasts expressed both IL-22 receptor subunits IL-10RB and IL-22RA, expression of which was enhanced by TNF and reduced by transforming growth factor (TGF)-β. IL-22 induced rapid phosphorylation of p38 and ERK1/2 in fibroblasts, but failed to induce the synthesis of chemokines and extracellular matrix components. However, IL-22 enhanced the production of monocyte chemotactic protein 1, IL-8 and matrix metalloproteinase 1 induced by TNF. Fibroblast responses were maximal in the presence of conditioned medium from keratinocytes activated by IL-22 in conjunction with TNF. Dermal thickness was maximal in mice injected simultaneously with IL-22 and TNF.Conclusions
IL-22 capacitates fibroblast responses to TNF and promotes a proinflammatory fibroblast phenotype by favouring TNF-induced keratinocyte activation. These results define a novel role for keratinocyte–fibroblast interactions in the context of skin fibrosis.