The Endogenous Th17 Response in NO2-Promoted Allergic Airway Disease Is Dispensable for Airway Hyperresponsiveness and Distinct from Th17 Adoptive Transfer

Severe, glucocorticoid-resistant asthma comprises 5-7% of patients with asthma. IL-17 is a biomarker of severe asthma, and the adoptive transfer of Th17 cells in mice is sufficient to induce glucocorticoid-resistant allergic airway disease. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is an environmental toxin that correlates with asthma severity, exacerbation, and risk of adverse outcomes. Mice that are allergically sensitized to the antigen ovalbumin by exposure to NO2 exhibit a mixed Th2/Th17 adaptive immune response and eosinophil and neutrophil recruitment to the airway following antigen challenge, a phenotype reminiscent of severe clinical asthma. Because IL-1 receptor (IL-1R) signaling is critical in the generation of the Th17 response in vivo, we hypothesized that the IL-1R/Th17 axis contributes to pulmonary inflammation and airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR) in NO2-promoted allergic airway disease and manifests in glucocorticoid-resistant cytokine production. IL-17A neutralization at the time of antigen challenge or genetic deficiency in IL-1R resulted in decreased neutrophil recruitment to the airway following antigen challenge but did not protect against the development of AHR. Instead, IL-1R-/- mice developed exacerbated AHR compared to WT mice. Lung cells from NO2-allergically inflamed mice that were treated in vitro with dexamethasone (Dex) during antigen restimulation exhibited reduced Th17 cytokine production, whereas Th17 cytokine production by lung cells from recipient mice of in vitro Th17-polarized OTII T-cells was resistant to Dex. These results demonstrate that the IL-1R/Th17 axis does not contribute to AHR development in NO2-promoted allergic airway disease, that Th17 adoptive transfer does not necessarily reflect an endogenously-generated Th17 response, and that functions of Th17 responses are contingent on the experimental conditions in which they are generated.