Role of ICOS in Foxp3+ Treg responses induced by parasitic helminths
Redpath, Stephen Alexander
Helminth parasites excel at subverting the host’s immune regulatory pathways resulting in immunosuppressed hosts harbouring chronic infections. This immune suppression forms a major barrier to the acquisition of protective Th2 immunity, both in regard to natural infections and potential vaccinations. At the same time, immune downregulation plays a beneficial role in protecting the host from pathology during chronic infection, and epidemiological links between helminth infections and the amelioration of allergy and autoimmunity diseases indicate that helminth-induced immune suppression can be therapeutically applied to the treatment of these conditions. Foxp3+ regulatory T cells (Treg) play central downregulatory roles in controlling reactivity to self-antigens and preventing autoimmune diseases, as well as in limiting inflammatory responses during infection. Helminths induce dominant Foxp3+ Treg responses that play key roles in inhibiting protective immunity and alleviating immunopathology, and that can protect against allergic inflammation. Thus, Foxp3+ Tregs are a fundamental mechanism of immune regulation during helminth infections, and an understanding of the mechanisms governing the induction of Foxp3+ Treg responses is of principal importance for the design of both prophylactic helminth treatments and therapies for allergies and autoimmunity. However, the nature of the T cell co-stimulatory signals driving Treg generation during helminth infection is largely unclear. Recent evidence suggests that the inducible costimulator (ICOS) contributes to Treg control of autoimmune inflammation. Further, ICOS expression is upregulated by Foxp3+ Treg during infection with the filarial nematode Litomosoides sigmodontis suggesting ICOS is important for Treg during helminth infection. Therefore, we investigated the role of ICOS in helminth-induced Treg responses. Similar to L. sigmodontis infection, Foxp3+ Treg increased ICOS expression in response to infection with the intestinal nematode Heligmosomoides polygyrus and with the blood trematode Schistosoma mansoni. Functionally, ICOS was required for the optimal expansion of lymphoid Treg numbers during early stage H. polygyrus infection and following the onset of the acute egg phase of S. mansoni infection suggesting common pathways for Treg induction by diverse helminth species. Whilst helminth induced proliferation and activation of Foxp3+ Treg was ICOS independent, ICOS was essential for Treg survival in settings of homeostasis and helminth infection. In contrast to the lymph node, Treg responses in the intestinal lamina propria (LP) of ICOS-/- mice were increased due to expanded natural Treg. Following H. polygyrus infection Foxp3+ Helios- CD4+ T cells preferentially expanded in wild-type (WT) mice but not in ICOS deficient mice suggesting ICOS is required for the expansion of adaptive Treg at the site of intestinal nematode infection. Functionally, ICOS supports Treg, but not effector T cells (Teff), H. polygyrus induced IL- 10 production suggesting ICOS differentially regulates Treg and Teff. At the H. polygyrus infection site, ICOS acted to downregulate CD4+ T cell Th2 cytokine production. Conversely, in the reactive lymph node ICOS signalling promoted Th2 immune responses, possibly by maintaining the pool of IL-4 secreting type 2 follicular helper T cells. Thus, ICOS has different effects on Th2 immunity depending on tissue location. Because Th2 immunity governs expulsion of H. polygyrus parasites, the differences in Th2 responses between lymph node and infection site could explain why ICOS deficiency did not impact worm burden. Protective immunity to long-lived helminth infection can be quenched in the initial days of infection by the action of Treg. Whether Treg expand and suppress protective immunity during S. mansoni larvae lung transit has not been investigated. We found that in contrast to H. polygyrus and L. sigmodontis infection, early S. mansoni infection did not induce a Treg response suggesting other mechanisms are employed for immune subversion. During the acute egg-phase of S. mansoni infection, Foxp3+ Treg protect the host from damaging egg-induced hepatic immunopathology. Despite reduced Foxp3+ Treg responses, ICOS deficiency did not impact egg-induced immunopathology. Thus, ICOS co-stimulation contributes to early expansion and the continued maintenance of Treg during helminth infection, both in the local lymph node and at the infection site. ICOS is required for Treg function during helminth infection by promoting IL-10 production, whilst its contribution to Th2 effector immunity is tissue specific. In addition, ICOS is dispensable for protective immunity and pathology during helminth infection. As ICOS controls both positive and negative immune responses and can have opposing roles depending on tissue location, an understanding of the consequences of these contradictory effects will be important when considering targeting ICOS therapeutically.