Interleukin-4 signaling plays a major role in urogenital schistosomiasis-associated bladder pathogenesis

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Infection and Immunity








Bladder; IL-4; Schistosoma; Schistosomiasis; Type-2 immunity; Urogenital


© 2020 American Society for Microbiology. Interleukin-4 (IL-4) is crucial in many helminth infections, but its role in urogenital schistosomiasis, infection with Schistosoma haematobium worms, remains poorly understood due to a historical lack of animal models. The bladder pathology of urogenital schistosomiasis is caused by immune responses to eggs deposited in the bladder wall. A range of pathology occurs, including urothelial hyperplasia and cancer, but associated mechanisms and links to IL-4 are largely unknown. We modeled urogenital schistosomiasis by injecting the bladder walls of IL-4 receptor-alpha knockout (Il4rα-/-) and wild-type mice with S. haematobium eggs. Readouts included bladder histology and ex vivo assessments of urothelial proliferation, cell cycle, and ploidy status. We also quantified the effects of exogenous IL-4 on urothelial cell proliferation in vitro, including cell cycle status and phosphorylation patterns of major downstream regulators in the IL-4 signaling pathway. There was a significant decrease in the intensity of granulomatous responses to bladder-wall-injected S. haematobium eggs in Il4rα-/- versus wild-type mice. S. haematobium egg injection triggered significant urothelial proliferation, including evidence of urothelial hyperdiploidy and cell cycle skewing in wild-type but not Il4rα-/- mice. Urothelial exposure to IL-4 in vitro led to cell cycle polarization and increased phosphorylation of AKT. Our results show that IL-4 signaling is required for key pathogenic features of urogenital schistosomiasis and that particular aspects of this signaling pathway may exert these effects directly on the urothelium. These findings point to potential mechanisms by which urogenital schistosomiasis promotes bladder carcinogenesis.

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