Human CD4+ central and effector memory T cells produce IL-21: Effect on cytokine-driven proliferation of CD4+ T cell subsets

Tadashi Onoda, Mizanur Rahman, Hidetoshi Nara, Akemi Araki, Koki Makabe, Kouhei Tsumoto, Izumi Kumagai, Toshio Kudo, Naoto Ishii, Nobuyuki Tanaka, Kazuo Sugamura, Kiyoshi Hayasaka, Hironobu Asao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


IL-21 regulates certain functions of T cells, B cells, NK cells and dendritic cells. Although activated CD4+ T cells produce IL-21, data identifying the specific CD4+ T cell subsets that produce IL-21 are conflicting. In a previous study, mouse IL-21 message was detected in TH2, whereas human IL-21 (hIL-21) message was found in both TH1 and follicular helper T cells. To identify the IL-21-secreting cell populations in human, we established a hybridoma cell line producing an anti-hIL-21 mAb. Intracellular hIL-21-staining experiments showed that hIL-21 was mainly expressed in activated CD4+ central memory T cells and in activated CD4+ effector memory T cells, but not in activated CD4+ naive T cells. Moreover, IL-21 was produced upon activation by some IFN-γ-producing TH1-polarized cells and some IL-17-producing TH17-polarized cells, but not by IL-4-producing TH2-polarized cells. These results suggest that specific CD4+ T cell populations produce IL-21. In the functional analysis, we found that IL-21 significantly enhanced the cytokine-driven proliferation of CD4+ helper T cells synergistically with IL-7 and IL-15 without T cell activation stimuli. Taken together, IL-21 produced from CD4+ memory T cells may have a supportive role in the maintenance of CD4+ T cell subsets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1191-1199
Number of pages9
JournalInternational immunology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2007 Oct


  • Homeostatic proliferation
  • T1
  • T17

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology

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