A new study led by researchers at the Centenary Institute and the University of Sydney in Australia recently revealed a molecular pathway important in the development of lung diseases. The study was recently published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and is entitled “IL-2 is a critical regulator of group 2 innate lymphoid cell function during pulmonary inflammation.”
Group 2 innate lymphoid cells (ILC2 cells) are a new class of immune cells present in the lungs. ILCs in general play an important role in innate immune responses, and in the regulation of homeostasis and inflammation, with ILC dysfunction leading to immune pathologies like autoimmune diseases and allergies. ILC2s in particular have been suggested to be involved in the pathogenesis of allergic lung diseases such as asthma. ILC2s produce interleukin-13 (IL-13), a molecule responsible for the mucous production in the lungs, which can lead to a blockade of the airways and ultimately asthma. The mechanisms underlying ILC2 regulation are, however, poorly understood.
It has been previously reported that ILC2s respond to exogenous IL-2, an immune system signaling molecule. In the study, researchers wanted to determine the role played by IL-2 in the regulation of ILC2 function in the lung. Using mice models of inflammatory lung conditions, the team analyzed the pulmonary ILC2 function in vivo and the effects of IL-2 administration in terms of ILC2 numbers in the lungs and pulmonary function in mice.
Researchers found that ILC2 cells in the lungs are regulated by IL-2, and that this molecule promotes the proliferation and survival of lung ILC2 cells and acts as a cofactor increasing ILC2’s ability to produce cytokines, small signaling proteins important for the response to infection, inflammation, trauma and immune responses, among others. The team also found that ILC2 acts as an immune source of IL-2 in the lung.
The research team concluded that IL-2 is a critical cofactor in the regulation of ILC2 activity in lung diseases. The authors highlight that this is the first in vivo study demonstrating this molecular pathway in the lungs.
“The better we understand the different pathways that regulate the immune system in the body, the closer we come to understanding how certain inflammatory diseases arise,” noted the study’s lead author Dr. Ben Roediger in a news release. “This study lends new light into how different immune cells may interact with one another in the lungs, which could have important implications for our understanding of asthma, particularly allergic asthma.”