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T cell receptor (TCR) signals can elicit full activation with acquisition of effector functions or a state of anergy. Here, we ask whether microRNAs affect the interpretation of TCR signaling. We find that Dicer-deficient CD4 T cells fail to correctly discriminate between activating and anergy-inducing stimuli and produce IL-2 in the absence of co-stimulation. Excess IL-2 production by Dicer-deficient CD4 T cells was sufficient to override anergy induction in WT T cells and to restore inducible Foxp3 expression in Il2-deficient CD4 T cells. Phosphorylation of Akt on S473 and of S6 ribosomal protein was increased and sustained in Dicer-deficient CD4 T cells, indicating elevated mTOR activity. The mTOR components Mtor and Rictor were posttranscriptionally deregulated, and the microRNAs Let-7 and miR-16 targeted the Mtor and Rictor mRNAs. Remarkably, returning Mtor and Rictor to normal levels by deleting one allele of Mtor and one allele of Rictor was sufficient to reduce Akt S473 phosphorylation and to reduce co-stimulation-independent IL-2 production in Dicer-deficient CD4 T cells. These results show that microRNAs regulate the expression of mTOR components in T cells, and that this regulation is critical for the modulation of mTOR activity. Hence, microRNAs contribute to the discrimination between T cell activation and anergy.
© 2014 Marcais et al.
Sarcoidosis pathogenesis is characterized by peripheral anergy and an exaggerated, pulmonary CD4(+) Th1 response. In this study, we demonstrate that CD4(+) anergic responses to polyclonal TCR stimulation are present peripherally and within the lungs of sarcoid patients. Consistent with prior observations, spontaneous release of IL-2 was noted in sarcoidosis bronchoalveolar lavage CD4(+) T cells. However, in contrast to spontaneous hyperactive responses reported previously, the cells displayed anergic responses to polyclonal TCR stimulation. The anergic responses correlated with diminished expression of the Src kinase Lck, protein kinase C-θ, and NF-κB, key mediators of IL-2 transcription. Although T regulatory (Treg) cells were increased in sarcoid patients, Treg depletion from the CD4(+) T cell population of sarcoidosis patients did not rescue IL-2 and IFN-γ production, whereas restoration of the IL-2 signaling cascade, via protein kinase C-θ overexpression, did. Furthermore, sarcoidosis Treg cells displayed poor suppressive capacity indicating that T cell dysfunction was a global CD4(+) manifestation. Analyses of patients with spontaneous clinical resolution revealed that restoration of CD4(+) Th1 and Treg cell function was associated with resolution. Conversely, disease progression exhibited decreased Th1 cytokine secretion and proliferative capacity, and reduced Lck expression. These findings implicate normalized CD4(+) T cell function as a potential therapeutic target for sarcoidosis resolution.
Autoreactive B lymphocytes that are not culled by central tolerance in the bone marrow frequently enter the peripheral repertoire in a state of functional impairment, termed anergy. These cells are recognized as a liability for autoimmunity, but their contribution to disease is not well understood. Insulin-specific 125Tg B cells support T cell-mediated type 1 diabetes in NOD mice, despite being anergic to B cell mitogens and T cell-dependent immunization. Using this model, the potential of anergic, autoreactive B cells to present Ag and activate T cells was investigated. The data show that 1) insulin is captured and rapidly internalized by 125Tg BCRs, 2) these Ag-exposed B cells are competent to activate both experienced and naive CD4(+) T cells, 3) anergic 125Tg B cells are more efficient than naive B cells at activating T cells when Ag is limiting, and 4) 125Tg B cells are competent to generate low-affinity insulin B chain epitopes necessary for activation of diabetogenic anti-insulin BDC12-4.1 T cells, indicating the pathological relevance of anergic B cells in type 1 diabetes. Thus, phenotypically tolerant B cells that are retained in the repertoire may promote autoimmunity by driving activation and expansion of autoaggressive T cells via Ag presentation.
OBJECTIVE - In this study, we investigated whether dyslipidemia-associated perturbed invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cell function is due to intrinsic changes in iNKT cells or defects in the ability of antigen-presenting cells to activate iNKT cells.
METHODS AND RESULTS - We compared iNKT cell expansion and cytokine production in C57BL/6J (B6) and apolipoprotein E-deficient (apoE(-/-)) mice. In response to in vivo stimulation with alpha-galactosylceramide, a prototypic iNKT cell glycolipid antigen, apoE(-/-) mice showed significantly decreased splenic iNKT cell expansion at 3 days after injection, a profile associated with iNKT cell anergy due to chronic stimulation. This decrease in expansion and cytokine production was accompanied by a 2-fold increase in percentage of iNKT cells expressing the inhibitory marker programmed death-1 in apoE(-/-) mice compared with controls. However, in vivo and in vitro blockade of programmed death-1 using monoclonal antibody was not able to restore functions of iNKT cells from apoE(-/-) mice to B6 levels. iNKT cells from apoE(-/-) mice also had increased intracellular T cell receptor and Ly49 expression, a phenotype associated with previous activation. Changes in iNKT cell functions were cell autonomous, because dendritic cells from apoE(-/-) mice were able to activate B6 iNKT cells, but iNKT cells from apoE(-/-) mice were not able to respond to B6 dendritic cells.
CONCLUSIONS - These data suggest that chronic dyslipidemia induces an iNKT cell phenotype that is unresponsive to further simulation by exogenous glycolipid and that sustained unresponsiveness is iNKT cell intrinsic.
Mechanisms of B cell tolerance act during development in the bone marrow and periphery to eliminate or restrict autoreactive clones to prevent autoimmune disease. B cells in the spleens of mice that harbor anti-insulin BCR transgenes (125Tg) are maintained in a functionally silenced or anergic state by endogenous hormone, but it is not clear when and where anergy is induced. An in vitro bone marrow culture system was therefore used to probe whether small protein hormones, a critical class of autoantigens, could interact with the BCR to induce anergy early during B cell development. Upon exposure to insulin, anti-insulin (125Tg) immature B cells show similar hallmarks of anergy as those observed in mature splenic B cells. These include BCR down-regulation, impaired proliferative responses to anti-CD40, and diminished calcium mobilization upon stimulation with BCR-dependent and independent stimuli. Inhibition of calcineurin also results in reduced immature B cell proliferation in a similar manner, suggesting a potential mechanism through which reduced intracellular calcium mobilization may be altering cellular proliferation. Signs of impairment appear after short-term exposure to insulin, which are reversible upon Ag withdrawal. This suggests that a high degree of functional plasticity is maintained at this stage and that constant Ag engagement is required to maintain functional inactivation. These findings indicate that tolerance observed in mature, splenic 125Tg B cells is initiated by insulin in the developing B cell compartment and thus highlight an important therapeutic window for the prevention of insulin autoimmunity.
Invariant NKT (iNKT) cells recognize glycolipid Ags, such as the marine sponge-derived glycosphingolipid alpha-galactosylceramide (alphaGalCer) presented by the CD1d protein. In vivo activation of iNKT cells with alphaGalCer results in robust cytokine production, followed by the acquisition of an anergic phenotype. Here we have investigated mechanisms responsible for the establishment of alphaGalCer-induced iNKT cell anergy. We found that alphaGalCer-activated iNKT cells rapidly up-regulated expression of the inhibitory costimulatory receptor programmed death (PD)-1 at their cell surface, and this increased expression was retained for at least one month. Blockade of the interaction between PD-1 and its ligands, PD-L1 and PD-L2, at the time of alphaGalCer treatment prevented the induction iNKT cell anergy, but was unable to reverse established iNKT cell anergy. Consistently, injection of alphaGalCer into PD-1-deficient mice failed to induce iNKT cell anergy. However, blockade of the PD-1/PD-L pathway failed to prevent bacterial- or sulfatide-induced iNKT cell anergy, suggesting additional mechanisms of iNKT cell tolerance. Finally, we showed that blockade of PD-1/PD-L interactions enhanced the antimetastatic activities of alphaGalCer. Collectively, our findings reveal a critical role for the PD-1/PD-L costimulatory pathway in the alphaGalCer-mediated induction of iNKT cell anergy that can be targeted for the development of immunotherapies.
Glycolipid-reactive Valpha24(+) invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells have been implicated in regulating a variety of immune responses and in the induction of immunologic tolerance. Activation of iNKT cells requires interaction with professional antigen-presenting cells, such as dendritic cells (DCs). We have investigated the capacity of distinct DC subsets to modulate iNKT cell functions. We demonstrate that tolerogenic DCs (tolDCs), generated by treatment of monocyte-derived DC with interleukin (IL)-10, induced regulatory functions in human iNKT cells. tolDCs, compared with immunogenic DCs, had reduced capacity to induce iNKT-cell proliferation, but these cells produced large amounts of IL-10 and acquired an anergic phenotype. These anergic Valpha24(+) iNKT cells were able to potently inhibit allogeneic CD4(+) T-cell proliferation in vitro. Furthermore, the anergic Valpha24(+) iNKT cells could suppress DC maturation in vitro. We conclude that the interaction of iNKT cells with tolDCs plays an important role in the immune regulatory network, which might be exploited for therapeutic purposes.
Natural killer T (NKT) cells recognize glycolipid antigens presented by the MHC class I-related glycoprotein CD1d. The in vivo dynamics of the NKT cell population in response to glycolipid activation remain poorly understood. Here, we show that a single administration of the synthetic glycolipid alpha-galactosylceramide (alpha-GalCer) induces long-term NKT cell unresponsiveness in mice. NKT cells failed to proliferate and produce IFN-gamma upon alpha-GalCer restimulation but retained the capacity to produce IL-4. Consequently, we found that activation of anergic NKT cells with alpha-GalCer exacerbated, rather than prevented, B16 metastasis formation, but that these cells retained their capacity to protect mice against experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. NKT cell anergy was induced in a thymus-independent manner and maintained in an NKT cell-autonomous manner. The anergic state could be broken by IL-2 and by stimuli that bypass proximal TCR signaling events. Collectively, the kinetics of initial NKT cell activation, expansion, and induction of anergy in response to alpha-GalCer administration resemble the responses of conventional T cells to strong stimuli such as superantigens. Our findings have important implications for the development of NKT cell-based vaccines and immunotherapies.
Loss of tolerance is considered to be an early event that is essential for the development of autoimmune disease. In contrast to this expectation, autoimmune (type 1) diabetes develops in NOD mice that harbor an anti-insulin Ig transgene (125Tg), even though anti-insulin B cells are tolerant. Tolerance is maintained in a similar manner in both normal C57BL/6 and autoimmune NOD mice, as evidenced by B cell anergy to stimulation through their Ag receptor (anti-IgM), TLR4 (LPS), and CD40 (anti-CD40). Unlike B cells in other models of tolerance, anergic 125Tg B cells are not arrested in development, and they enter mature subsets of follicular and marginal zone B cells. In addition, 125Tg B cells remain competent to increase CD86 expression in response to both T cell-dependent (anti-CD40) and T cell-independent (anti-IgM or LPS) signals. Thus, for anti-insulin B cells, tolerance is characterized by defective B cell proliferation uncoupled from signals that promote maturation and costimulator function. In diabetes-prone NOD mice, anti-insulin B cells in this novel state of tolerance provide the essential B cell contribution required for autoimmune beta cell destruction. These findings suggest that the degree of functional impairment, rather than an overt breach of tolerance, is a critical feature that governs B cell contribution to T cell-mediated autoimmune disease.
Induction of tolerance to transplantation carbohydrate antigens is of clinical significance in recipients of ABO-incompatible allografts, or of xenografts. The experimental animal model used for studying such tolerance was that of alpha1,3galactosyltransferase (alpha1,3GT) knockout (KO) mice, which lacks the alpha-gal epitope (Galalpha1-3Galbeta1-4GlcNAc-R) and which can produce the anti-Gal antibody against it. In contrast, wild-type (WT) mice synthesize the alpha-gal epitope and are immunotolerant to it. KO lymphocytes transduced in vitro with adenovirus containing the alpha1,3GT gene (AdalphaGT) express alpha-gal epitopes. Administration of such lymphocytes into KO mice resulted in tolerization of naïve and memory anti-Gal B cells. Mice tolerized by AdalphaGT transduced lymphocytes failed to produce anti-Gal following immunizations with pig kidney membranes (PKM) expressing multiple alpha-gal epitopes. This tolerance was perpetuated by transplanted syngeneic WT mouse hearts expressing alpha-gal epitopes. Transplanted WT hearts survived in the tolerized KO mice for at least 100 days, despite repeated PKM immunizations. Control mice receiving lymphocytes transduced with adenovirus lacking the alpha1,3GT gene were not tolerized, but produced anti-Gal and rejected transplanted WT hearts. This study suggests that autologous lymphocytes transduced with adenovirus containing A or B transferase genes may induce a similar tolerance to blood group antigens in humans.