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TGF-beta-induced Foxp3 inhibits T(H)17 cell differentiation by antagonizing RORgammat function.

Zhou L., Lopes J.E., Chong M.M., Ivanov I.I., Min R., Victora G.D., Shen Y., Du J., Rubtsov Y.P., Rudensky A.Y., Ziegler S.F., Littman D.R.

T helper cells that produce IL-17 (T(H)17 cells) promote autoimmunity in mice and have been implicated in the pathogenesis of human inflammatory diseases. At mucosal surfaces, T(H)17 cells are thought to protect the host from infection, whereas regulatory T (T(reg)) cells control immune responses and inflammation triggered by the resident microflora. Differentiation of both cell types requires transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta), but depends on distinct transcription factors: RORgammat (encoded by Rorc(gammat)) for T(H)17 cells and Foxp3 for T(reg) cells. How TGF-beta regulates the differentiation of T cells with opposing activities has been perplexing. Here we demonstrate that, together with pro-inflammatory cytokines, TGF-beta orchestrates T(H)17 cell differentiation in a concentration-dependent manner. At low concentrations, TGF-beta synergizes with interleukin (IL)-6 and IL-21 (refs 9-11) to promote IL-23 receptor (Il23r) expression, favouring T(H)17 cell differentiation. High concentrations of TGF-beta repress IL23r expression and favour Foxp3+ T(reg) cells. RORgammat and Foxp3 are co-expressed in naive CD4+ T cells exposed to TGF-beta and in a subset of T cells in the small intestinal lamina propria of the mouse. In vitro, TGF-beta-induced Foxp3 inhibits RORgammat function, at least in part through their interaction. Accordingly, lamina propria T cells that co-express both transcription factors produce less IL-17 (also known as IL-17a) than those that express RORgammat alone. IL-6, IL-21 and IL-23 relieve Foxp3-mediated inhibition of RORgammat, thereby promoting T(H)17 cell differentiation. Therefore, the decision of antigen-stimulated cells to differentiate into either T(H)17 or T(reg) cells depends on the cytokine-regulated balance of RORgammat and Foxp3.

Nature 453:236-240(2008) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]

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