Delayed goblet cell hyperplasia, acetylcholine receptor expression, and worm expulsion in SMC-specific IL-4Ralpha-deficient mice

Interleukin 4 receptor α (IL-4Rα) is essential for effective clearance of gastrointestinal nematode infections. Smooth muscle cells are considered to play a role in the type 2 immune response-driven expulsion of gastrointestinal nematodes. Previous studies have shown in vitro that signal transducer and activator of transcription 6 signaling in response to parasitic nematode infection significantly increases smooth muscle cell contractility. Inhibition of the IL-4Rα pathway inhibits this response. How this response manifests itself in vivo is unknown. In this study, smooth muscle cell IL-4Rα-deficient mice (SM-MHC Cre IL-4Rα −/lox ) were generated and characterized to uncover any role for IL-4/IL-13 in this non-immune cell type in response to Nippostrongylus brasiliensis infection. IL-4Rα was absent from α-actin-positive smooth muscle cells, while other cell types showed normal IL-4Rα expression, thus demonstrating efficient cell-type-specific deletion of the IL-4Rα gene. N. brasiliensis -infected SM-MHC Cre IL-4Rα −/lox mice showed delayed ability to resolve infection with significantly prolonged fecal egg recovery and delayed worm expulsion. The delayed expulsion was related to a delayed intestinal goblet cell hyperplasia, reduced T helper 2 cytokine production in the mesenteric lymph node, and reduced M3 muscarinic receptor expression during infection. Together, these results demonstrate that in vivo IL-4Rα-responsive smooth muscle cells are beneficial for N. brasiliensis expulsion by coordinating T helper 2 cytokine responses, goblet hyperplasia, and acetylcholine responsiveness, which drive smooth muscle cell contractions.