The interleukin 9 (IL-9) pathway has recently been associated with the asthmatic phenotype including an eosinophilic tissue inflammation. The mechanism by which IL-9 affects eosinophils (eos) is not known. To investigate whether this cytokine has a direct activity on the development of eos and eosinophilic inflammation, a model of thioglycolate-induced peritoneal inflammation was used in IL-9 transgenic (TG5) and background strain (FVB) mice. In this model, a transient eosinophilic infiltration in the peritoneal cavity was observed in FVB mice 12 to 24 hours after thioglycolate injection that coincided with peak IL-5 and IL-9 release. In contrast, TG5 mice developed a massive eosinophilia that persisted at high levels (81% of total cells) even 72 hours after thioglycolate injection. Release of eosinophilic major basic protein (MBP), IL-4, and IL-5 to the peritoneal cavity of these mice was significantly increased when compared with the control FVB strain. To study the mechanism by which IL-9 exerts its effect on eos, bone marrow or peritoneal cells were cultured in the presence of IL-5, IL-9, or their combination in vitro. IL-5 alone was able to generate significant numbers of eos in TG5 but not FVB mice, whereas a combination of IL-5 and IL-9 induced marked eosinophilia in both strains indicating a synergism between these 2 cytokines. These data suggest that IL-9 may promote and sustain eosinophilic inflammation via IL-5-driven eos maturation of precursors.
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