A novel gene, designated ML-1, was identified from a human genomic DNA clone and human T cell cDNA sequences. The second exon of ML-1 gene shares significant sequence identity with the gene encoding IL-17 (IL-17). ML-1 gene expression was upregulated in activated PBMCs, CD4+ T cells, allergen-specific Th0, Th1, and Th2 clones, activated basophils, and mast cells. Increased expression of the ML-1 gene, but not IL-17, was seen following allergen challenge in four asthmatic subjects, suggesting its role in allergic inflammatory responses. ML-1 from transiently transfected COS-7 cells was able to induce gene expression and protein production for IL-6 and IL-8 (at 10 ng/ml of ML-1: For IL-6, 599.6 ± 19.1 pg/ml; for IL-8, 1724.2 ± 132.9 pg/ml; and at 100 ng/ml of ML-1: For IL-6, 1005.3 ± 55.6 pg/ml; for IL-8, 4371.4 ± 280.5 pg/ml; p < 0.05 for both doses vs baseline) in primary bronchial epithelial (PBE) cells. Furthermore, increased expression of ICAM-1 was found in ML-1-stimulated PBE cells (mean fluorescence intensity (MFI) = 31.42 ± 4.39 vs baseline, MFI = 12.26 ± 1.77, p < 0.05), a functional feature distinct from IL-17 (MFI = 11.07 ± 1.22). This effect was not inhibited by a saturating amount of IL-17. These findings demonstrate that ML-1 is a novel cytokine with a distinct function, and suggest a different receptor for ML-1 on PBE cells.
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