Author(s): Biswas PS, Gupta S, Chang E, Song L, Stirzaker RA,
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Abstract Deregulated production of IL-17 and IL-21 plays a key pathogenic role in many autoimmune disorders. A delineation of the mechanisms that underlie the inappropriate synthesis of IL-17 and IL-21 in autoimmune diseases can thus provide important insights into potential therapies for these disorders. Here we have shown that the serine-threonine kinase Rho-associated, coiled-coil-containing protein kinase 2 (ROCK2) becomes activated in mouse T cells under Th17 skewing conditions and phosphorylates interferon regulatory factor 4 (IRF4), a transcription factor that is absolutely required for the production of IL-17 and IL-21. We furthermore demonstrated that ROCK2-mediated phosphorylation of IRF4 regulated the synthesis of IL-17 and IL-21 and the differentiation of Th17 cells. Whereas CD4+ T cells from WT mice activated ROCK2 physiologically under Th17 conditions, CD4+ T cells from 2 different mouse models of spontaneous autoimmunity aberrantly activated ROCK2 under neutral conditions. Moreover, administration of ROCK inhibitors ameliorated the deregulated production of IL-17 and IL-21 and the inflammatory and autoantibody responses observed in these autoimmune mice. Our findings thus uncover a crucial link among ROCK2, IRF4, and the production of IL-17 and IL-21 and support the idea that selective inhibition of ROCK2 could represent an important therapeutic regimen for the treatment of autoimmune disorders.
This article was published in J Clin Invest
and referenced in Journal of Clinical & Cellular Immunology