Dendritic cells trigger imbalance of Th1/Th2 cells in silica dust exposure rat model via MHC-II, CD80, CD86 and IL-12
Silicosis is one of the most common occupational respiratory diseases caused by inhaling silica dust over a prolonged period of time, and the progression of silicosis is accompanied with chronic inflammation and progressive pulmonary fibrosis, in which dendritic cells (DCs), the most powerful antigen presentation cell (APC) in the immune response, play a crucial role. To investigate the role of DCs in the development of silicosis, we established an experimental silicosis rat model and examined the number of DCs and alveolar macrophages (AMs) in lung tissues using immunofluorescence over 84 days. Additionally, to obtain an overview of the immunological changes in rat lung tissues, a series of indicators including Th1/Th2 cells, IFN-γ, IL-4, MHC-II, CD80/86 and IL-12 were detected using flow cytometry and an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) as well as a real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay. We observed that the number of DCs slightly increased at the inflammatory stage, and it increased significantly at the final stage of fibrosis. Polarization of Th1 cells and IFN-γ expressions were dominant during the inflammatory stage, whereas polarization of Th2 cells and IL-4 expressions were dominant during the fibrotic stage. The subsequent mechanistic study found that the expressions of MHC-II, CD80/86 and IL-12, which are the key molecules that connect DCs and Th cells, changed dynamically in the experimental silicosis rat model. The data obtained in this study indicated that the increase in DCs may contribute to polarization of Th1/Th2 cells via MHC-II, CD80/86, and IL-12 in silica dust-exposed rats.