Cis Association of Galectin-9 with Tim-3 Differentially Regulates IL-12/IL-23 Expressions in Monocytes via TLR Signaling

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Human monocytes/macrophages (M/MΦ) of the innate immunity sense and respond to microbial products via specific receptor coupling with stimulatory (such as TLR) and inhibitory (such as Tim-3) receptors. Current models imply that Tim-3 expression on M/MØ can deliver negative signaling to TLR-mediated IL-12 expression through trans association with its ligand Galectin-9 (Gal-9) presented by other cells. However, Gal-9 is also expressed within M/MØ, and the effect of intracellular Gal-9 on Tim-3 activities and inflammatory responses in the same M/MØ remains unknown. In this study, our data suggest that Tim-3 and IL-12/IL-23 gene transcriptions are regulated by enhanced or silenced Gal-9 expression within monocytes through synergizing with TLR signaling. Additionally, TLR activation facilitates Gal-9/Tim-3 cis association within the same M/MØ to differentially regulate IL-12/IL-23 expressions through STAT-3 phosphorylation. These results reveal a ligand (Gal-9) compartment-dependent regulatory effect on receptor (Tim-3) activities and inflammatory responses via TLR pathways-a novel mechanism underlying cellular responses to external or internal cues.