Experimental autoimmune myocarditis (EAM) can be induced in the Lewis rat by cardiac myosin or its cryptic S2-16 peptide epitope (amino acids1052 to 1076). To investigate cellular mechanisms and the role of antigen-presenting cells in regulation of myocarditis, we induced protection against EAM in Lewis rats by administration of S2-16 peptide in incomplete Freund’s adjuvant (IFA). Protection to EAM was associated with activation of S2-16-reactive splenocytes secreting high levels of interleukin (IL)-10 and reduced levels of interferon- and IL-2. Adoptive transfer of S2-16:IFA-induced splenocytes producing IL-10 suppressed myocarditis induction in syngeneic recipients, suggesting their regulatory cell nature. However, exposure of S2-16:IFA-induced cells to inflammatory cytokine IL-12 converted them to Th1 effectors that transferred EAM. Differentiated function of S2-16-reactive T cells in protected rats resulted from increased IL-10 production by dendritic cells (DCs). Purified DCs from S2-16:IFA-treated rats promoted S2-16-reactive CD4 T cells to produce increased IL-10 and reduced interferon-. In addition, adoptive transfer of IL-10-producing DCs from S2-16: IFA-treated rats also induced protection to EAM in recipient rats. These studies demonstrated DCs and key cytokines, such as IL-10 and IL-12, regulated the fate of T cells in myocarditis development in the Lewis rat.
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