Central tolerance ensures autoreactive T cells are eliminated or diverted to the regulatory T cell lineage, thus preventing autoimmunity. To undergo central tolerance, thymocytes must enter the medulla to test their TCRs for autoreactivity against the diverse self-antigens displayed by antigen presenting cells (APCs). While CCR7 is known to promote thymocyte medullary entry and negative selection, our previous studies implicate CCR4 in these processes, raising the question of whether CCR4 and CCR7 play distinct or redundant roles in central tolerance. Here, synchronized positive selection assays, 2-photon timelapse microscopy, and quantification of TCR-signaled apoptotic thymocytes, demonstrate that CCR4 and CCR7 promote medullary accumulation and central tolerance of distinct post-positive selection thymocyte subsets in mice. CCR4 is upregulated within hours of positive selection signaling and promotes medullary entry and clonal deletion of immature post-positive selection thymocytes. In contrast, CCR7 is expressed several days later and is required for medullary localization and negative selection of mature thymocytes. In addition, CCR4 and CCR7 differentially enforce self-tolerance, with CCR4 enforcing tolerance to self-antigens presented by activated APCs, which express CCR4 ligands. Our findings show that CCR7 expression is not synonymous with medullary localization and support a revised model of central tolerance in which CCR4 and CCR7 promote early and late stages of negative selection, respectively, via interactions with distinct APC subsets.
All data in this study are included in the source data excel file 'Source data_revised'. Data for individual components of figures are found on the corresponding tabs in the spreadsheet.
- Lauren IR Ehrlich
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Animal experimentation: This study was performed in strict accordance with the recommendations in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals of the National Institutes of Health. All of the animals were handled according to approved institutional animal care and use committee (IACUC) protocol (# AUP-2019-00034) at the University of Texas at Austin.
- Juan Carlos Zúñiga-Pflücker, University of Toronto, Sunnybrook Research Institute, Canada
© 2023, Li et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
Thymus-originated tTregs and in vitro induced iTregs are subsets of regulatory T cells. While they share the capacity of immune suppression, their stabilities are different, with iTregs losing their phenotype upon stimulation or under inflammatory milieu. Epigenetic differences, particularly methylation state of Foxp3 CNS2 region, provide an explanation for this shift. Whether additional regulations, including cellular signaling, could directly lead phenotypical instability requires further analysis. Here, we show that upon TCR (T cell receptor) triggering, SOCE (store-operated calcium entry) and NFAT (nuclear factor of activated T cells) nuclear translocation are blunted in tTregs, yet fully operational in iTregs, similar to Tconvs. On the other hand, tTregs show minimal changes in their chromatin accessibility upon activation, in contrast to iTregs that demonstrate an activated chromatin state with highly accessible T cell activation and inflammation related genes. Assisted by several cofactors, NFAT driven by strong SOCE signaling in iTregs preferentially binds to primed-opened T helper (TH) genes, resulting in their activation normally observed only in Tconv activation, ultimately leads to instability. Conversely, suppression of SOCE in iTregs can partially rescue their phenotype. Thus, our study adds two new layers, cellular signaling and chromatin accessibility, of understanding in Treg stability, and may provide a path for better clinical applications of Treg cell therapy.
Pyroptosis and apoptosis are two forms of regulated cell death that can defend against intracellular infection. When a cell fails to complete pyroptosis, backup pathways will initiate apoptosis. Here, we investigated the utility of apoptosis compared to pyroptosis in defense against an intracellular bacterial infection. We previously engineered Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium to persistently express flagellin, and thereby activate NLRC4 during systemic infection in mice. The resulting pyroptosis clears this flagellin-engineered strain. We now show that infection of caspase-1 or gasdermin D deficient macrophages by this flagellin-engineered S. Typhimurium induces apoptosis in vitro. Additionally, we engineered S. Typhimurium to translocate the pro-apoptotic BH3 domain of BID, which also triggers apoptosis in macrophages in vitro. During mouse infection, the apoptotic pathway successfully cleared these engineered S. Typhimurium from the intestinal niche but failed to clear the bacteria from the myeloid niche in the spleen or lymph nodes. In contrast, the pyroptotic pathway was beneficial in defense of both niches. To clear an infection, cells may have specific tasks that they must complete before they die; different modes of cell death could initiate these ‘bucket lists’ in either convergent or divergent ways.