Interleukin (IL)-17-producing T helper (Th17) cells play a critical role in the pathophysiology of several autoimmune disorders. The differentiation of Th17 cells requires the simultaneous presence of an unusual combination of cytokines: IL-6, a proinflammatory cytokine, and transforming growth factor (TGF) β, an antiinflammatory cytokine. However, the molecular mechanisms by which TGF-β exerts its effects on Th17 cell differentiation remain elusive. We report that TGF-β does not directly promote Th17 cell differentiation but instead acts indirectly by blocking expression of the transcription factors signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) 4 and GATA-3, thus preventing Th1 and Th2 cell differentiation. In contrast, TGF-β had no effect on the expression of retinoic acid receptor-related orphan nuclear receptor γt, a Th17-specific transcription factor. Interestingly, in Stat-6-/-T-bet-/- mice, which are unable to generate Th1 and Th2 cells, IL-6 alone was sufficient to induce robust differentiation of Th17 cells, whereas TGF-β had no effect, suggesting that TGF-β is dispensable for Th17 cell development. Consequently, BALB/c Stat-6-/-T-bet-/- mice, but not wild-type BALB/c mice, were highly susceptible to the development of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, which could be blocked by anti-IL-17 antibodies but not by anti-TGF-β antibodies. Collectively, these data provide evidence that TGF-β is not directly required for the molecular orchestration of Th17 cell differentiation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy