Interleukin (IL)-12 is a key factor that induces T helper cell type 1-mediated immunity and inflammatory diseases. In some colitis models, such as IL-10 knock-out (KO) mice, IL-12 triggers intestinal inflammation. An abundant amount of IL-12 is produced by intestinal macrophages in response to stimulation by commensal bacteria in IL-10 KO mice. Intact bacteria are more potent inducers of macrophage IL-12 production than cell surface components in this model. This suggested that cell surface receptor signalling and intracellular pathogen recognition mechanisms are important for the induction of IL-12. We addressed the importance of intracellular recognition mechanisms and demonstrated that signal transducers and activator of transcription 1 (STAT1) signalling activated bacterial phagocytosis and was involved in the induction of abnormal IL-12 production. In IL-10 KO mouse bone marrow-derived (BM) macrophages, Escherichia coli stimulation induced increased IL-12p70 production compared to lipopolysaccharide combined with interferon (IFN)-γ treatment. Significant repression of IL-12 production was achieved by inhibition of phagocytosis with cytochalasin D, and inhibition of de novo protein synthesis with cycloheximide. Induction of IFN regulatory factors-1 and -8, downstream molecules of STAT1 and the key transcription factors for IK-12 transcription, following E. coli stimulation, were mediated by phagocytosis. Interestingly, STAT1 was activated after stimulation with E. coli in IL-10 KO BM macrophages, although IFN-γ could not be detected. These data suggest that molecules other than IFN-γ are involved in hyper-production mechanisms of IL-12 induced by E. coli stimulation. In conclusion, enteric bacteria stimulate excessive IL-12p70 production in IL-10 KO BM macrophages via phagocytosis-dependent signalling.
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