Living in a microbe-rich environment reduces the risk of developing asthma. Exposure of humans or mice to unmethylated CpG DNA (CpG) from bacteria reproduces these protective effects, suggesting a major contribution of CpG to microbe-induced asthma resistance. However, how CpG confers protection remains elusive. We found that exposure to CpG expanded regulatory lung interstitial macrophages (IMs) from monocytes infiltrating the lung or mobilized from the spleen. Trafficking of IM precursors to the lung was independent of CCR2, a chemokine receptor required for monocyte mobilization from the bone marrow. Using a mouse model of allergic airway inflammation, we found that adoptive transfer of IMs isolated from CpG-treated mice recapitulated the protective effects of CpG when administered before allergen sensitization or challenge. IM-mediated protection was dependent on IL-10, given that Il10−/− CpG-induced IMs lacked regulatory effects. Thus, the expansion of regulatory lung IMs upon exposure to CpG might underlie the reduced risk of asthma development associated with a microbe-rich environment.
Exposure to unmethylated CpG DNA (CpG) from bacteria is associated with a reduced risk of developing asthma. Sabatel et al. find that CpG exposure leads to higher numbers of lung interstitial macrophages that prevent allergic inflammation through the production of the regulatory cytokine interleukin-10.