IL-23 induces stronger sustained CTL and Th1 immune responses than IL-12 in hepatitis C virus envelope protein 2 DNA immunization.
IL-23 is a heterodimeric cytokine consisting of p19 and the p40 subunit of IL-12. IL-23 has been shown to possess IL-12-like biological activities, but is different in its capacity to stimulate memory T cells in vitro. In this study, we investigated whether IL-23 could influence envelope protein 2 (E2)-specific cell-mediated immunity induced by immunization of hepatitis C virus E2 DNA. We found that IL-23 induced long-lasting Th1 and CTL immune responses to E2, which are much stronger than IL-12-mediated immune responses. Interestingly, IL-23N220L, an N-glycosylation mutant showing reduced expression of excess p40 without changing the level of IL-23, exhibited a higher ratio of IFN-gamma-to IL-4-producing CD4(+) T cell frequency than did wild-type IL-23, suggesting a negative regulatory effect of p40 on Th1-prone immune response induced by IL-23. These data suggest that IL-23, particularly IL-23N220L, would be an effective adjuvant of DNA vaccine for the induction of durable Ag-specific T cell immunity.