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Patients with inflammatory autoimmune diseases are routinely treated with synthetic glucocorticoids to suppress immunopathology. A crucial outcome of glucocorticoid exposure is induction of glucocorticoid-induced leucine zipper (GILZ), a protein with multiple functions that include inhibition of key immune cell signalling pathways. Here we report that GILZ maintains a threshold for activation of Th17 responses and IL-17-dependent pathology. GILZ expression was deficient in lesional skin of psoriasis patients and was negatively correlated with the pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-23, IL-17A and IL-22, and with STAT3 expression. Deficiency of GILZ in mice resulted in excessive inflammation and pro-inflammatory cytokine expression in the imiquimod model of psoriasis, and dendritic cells lacking GILZ produced greater IL-1, IL-23 and IL-6 in response to imiquimod stimulation in vitro. These cytokines stimulate Th17 cell differentiation, and we found unchallenged GILZ-deficient mice to have spontaneous production of IL-17A and IL-22 in vivo. We also identified a T cell-intrinsic role for GILZ in limiting Th17 cell formation in vitro in response to Th17-promoting cytokines IL-1beta and IL-23. Addition of IL-6 under these conditions suppressed GILZ, allowing T cell proliferation and expression of Th17 genes, whereas exogenous delivery of GILZ using a cell-permeable fusion protein restored regulation of Th17 cell proliferation. Thus, GILZ has a non-redundant function to constrain pathogenic Th17 responses, with clinical implications for psoriasis.
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