Background: The transcription factor aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) mediates the effects of a group of chemicals known as dioxins, ubiquitously present in our environment. However, it is poorly known how the in vivo exposure to these chemicals affects in humans the adaptive immune response. We therefore assessed the functional phenotype of T cells from an individual who developed a severe cutaneous and systemic syndrome after having been exposed to an extremely high dose of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). Methodology/Principal Findings: T cells of the TCDD-exposed individual were studied for their capacity to produce cytokines in response to polyclonal and superantigenic stimulation, and for the expression of chemokine receptors involved in skin homing. The supernatants from T cells of the exposed individual contained a substantially increased amount of interleukin (IL)-22 but not of IL-17A, interferon (IFN)-? or IL-10 when compared to nine healthy controls. In vitro experiments confirmed a direct, AhR-dependent, enhancing effect of TCDD on IL-22 production by CD4+ T cells. The increased production of IL-22 was not dependent on AhR occupancy by residual TCDD molecules, as demonstrated in competition experiments with the specific AhR antagonist CH-223191. In contrast, it was due to an increased frequency of IL-22 single producing cells accompanied by an increased percentage of cells expressing the skin-homing chemokine receptors CCR6 and CCR4, identified through a multiparameter flow cytometry approach. Of interest, the frequency of CD4+CD25hiFoxP3+ T regulatory cells was similar in the TCDD-exposed and healthy individuals. Conclusions/Significance: This case strongly supports the contention that human exposure to persistent AhR ligands in vivo induce a long-lasting effect on the human adaptive immune system and specifically polarizes CD4+ T cells to produce IL-22 and not other T cell cytokines with no effect on T regulatory cells. ? 2011 Brembilla et al.
Brembilla, N. C., Ramirez, J. M., Chicheportiche, R., Sorg, O., Saurat, J. H., & Chizzolini, C. (2011). In vivo dioxin favors interleukin-22 production by human cd4+ t cells in an aryl hydrocarbon receptor (ahr)-dependent manner. PLoS ONE, 6(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0018741