When IL-4 mRNA was distinguished from mRNA encoding its antagonist, the splice variant IL-4δ2, it was found to correlate directly with expression of TLR2 in fresh peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from normal donors (p = 0.0013). Similarly IL-4 mRNA was high when TLR2 mRNA was abundant compared to levels of mRNA encoding its heterodimerisation partners TLR1 (p = 0.0007) or TLR6 (p = 0.0007). IL-4δ2 tended to show the reverse effect; IL-4δ2 mRNA was high when TLR2 was low relative to TLR1 (p = 0.001). When subpopulations of the PBMCs were examined these relationships were found to be restricted to the CD3+ cells. The CD3+ cell population from 5 of 10 donors had detectable TLR2 mRNA. When levels of TLR1, IL-4 and IFN-γ mRNA were assayed in the TLR2low and TLR2high CD3+ cells, it was found that IL-4 mRNA was restricted to the TLR2high T cells (p = 0.007) while TLR1 was higher in the TLR2low T cells (p = 0.015). IFN-γ was also somewhat increased in the TLR2low (ns). None of these correlations with TLR mRNA expression levels were found in similar samples from tuberculosis patients, or when similar analyses were performed with data for IL-10 mRNA in cells from the same donors. We conclude that in T cell populations from normal donors, expression of IL-4 (but not of its antagonist, IL-4δ2, or of IL-10) is associated with high TLR2 and low TLR1.
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