Interleukin 4 (IL-4) and IL-13 share many biological functions. Both cytokines promote growth of activated human B cells and induce naive human surface immunoglobulin D+ (sIgD+) B cells to produce IgG4 and IgE. Here we show that a mutant form of human IL-4, in which the tyrosine residue at position 124 is replaced by aspartic acid (hIL-4.Y124D), specifically blocks IL-4 and IL-13-induced proliferation of B cells costimulated by anti-CD40 mAbs in a dose-dependent fashion. A mouse mutant IL-4 protein (mIL-4.Y119D), which antagonizes the biological activity of mouse IL-4, was ineffective. In addition, hIL-4.Y124D, at concentrations of up to 40 nM, did not affect IL-2-induced B cell proliferation. hIL-4.Y124D did not have detectable agonistic activity in these B cell proliferation assays. Interestingly, hIL-4.Y124D also strongly inhibited both IL-4 or IL-13-induced IgG4 and IgE synthesis in cultures of peripheral blood mononuclear cells, or highly purified sIgD+ B cells cultured in the presence of anti-CD40 mAbs. IL-4 and IL-13-induced IgE responses were inhibited > 95% at a approximately 50- or approximately 20-fold excess of hIL-4.Y124D, respectively, despite the fact that the IL-4 mutant protein had a weak agonistic activity. This agonistic activity was 1.6 +/- 1.9% (n = 4) of the maximal IgE responses induced by saturating concentrations of IL-4. Taken together, these data indicate that there are commonalities between the IL-4 and IL-13 receptor. In addition, since hIL-4.Y124D inhibited both IL-4 and IL-13-induced IgE synthesis, it is likely that antagonistic mutant IL-4 proteins may have potential clinical use in the treatment of IgE-mediated allergic diseases.

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