Different cytokines play crucial roles in inflammation and in polarizing immune responses, including IL-27 that exerts pro- and antiinflammatory functions. Although the activity of IL-27 is well characterized in murine immune cells, only limited information is available regarding the natural cellular sources of IL-27 in humans and its effects on human immune cells. Dendritic cells (DCs) are the most potent professional APCs that in the immature state are positioned throughout peripheral tissues by acting as sentinels, sensing the presence of Ags. Activated DCs migrate into the lymph nodes and direct Ag-specific T cell responses, thus acting as key players in both adaptive and innate immunity. In this study we asked whether IL-27 is produced by human secondary lymphoid organs and what is its functional role on human DCs. To our knowledge, we provide the first evidence that 1) in lymph nodes, macrophages are the major source for IL-27; 2) immature and mature human DCs express functional IL-27R; 3) IL-27 exerts immunosuppressive activity by crippling the Ag processing machinery in immature DCs under steady-state conditions and after pulsing with a viral Ag; and 4) IL-27 is chemotactic for human DCs. Our findings highlight novel mechanisms underlying the immunosuppressive activity of IL-27, suggesting that this cytokine may function as a homeostatic cytokine in secondary lymphoid organs by limiting duration and/or intensity of ongoing adaptive immune responses. The results presented in this study pave the way to future studies aimed at investigating whether dysregulation of IL-27 expression and function may be involved in pathogenesis of autoimmune disease and cancer. The Journal of Immunology, 2014, 192: 2634-2642.
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