Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Expression Licenses Type-2 Helper T Cells to Function in a T Cell Receptor-Independent Fashion

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Abstract

Gastro-intestinal helminth infections trigger the release of interleukin-33 (IL-33), which induces type-2 helper T cells (Th2 cells) at the site of infection to produce IL-13, thereby contributing to host resistance in a T cell receptor (TCR)-independent manner. Here, we show that, as a prerequisite for IL-33-induced IL-13 secretion, Th2 cells required the expression of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and of its ligand, amphiregulin, for the formation of a signaling complex between T1/ST2 (the IL-33R) and EGFR. This shared signaling complex allowed IL-33 to induce the EGFR-mediated activation of the MAP-kinase signaling pathway and consequently the expression of IL-13. Lack of EGFR expression on T cells abrogated IL-13 expression in infected tissues and impaired host resistance. EGFR expression on Th2 cells was TCR-signaling dependent, and therefore, our data reveal a mechanism by which antigen presentation controls the innate effector function of Th2 cells at the site of inflammation.

At the site of infection, Th2 cells secrete IL-13 upon exposure to IL-33. Minutti et al. now show that TCR-induced expression of the EGFR and its ligand amphiregulin was essential for IL-33-induced IL-13 secretion, revealing a mechanism whereby antigen-specific activation controls the innate effector function of Th2 cells.

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