Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma is required for CD4+ T cell-mediated lymphopenia-associated autoimmunity

J Immunol. 2011 Oct 15;187(8):4161-9. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1101731. Epub 2011 Sep 9.


The nuclear hormone receptor peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ) was shown to play an immunoregulatory role in many immune-related cell types, and activation of PPARγ was reported to be an effective therapeutic approach in murine and human autoimmune disease. However, despite an association between lymphopenia and autoimmunity, there has been no study on the role of T cell PPARγ in lymphopenia-associated autoimmunity. In the present studies, we examined the role of PPARγ in CD4(+) T cells in two murine models of lymphopenia-associated autoimmunity. Surprisingly, we found that PPARγ expression in CD4(+) CD25(-) T cells (T effector cells [Teffs]) is actually required for development of autoimmunity under lymphopenic conditions. Mechanistically, the inability of PPARγ-deficient (T-PPAR) Teffs to mediate lymphopenic autoimmunity is associated with a significant decrease in accumulation of Teffs in the spleen, lymph nodes, and tissues after adoptive transfer. This abnormal accumulation of T-PPAR Teffs was associated with defects in both in vivo proliferation and survival. Additionally, T-PPAR Teffs demonstrated decreased cytokine production in inflammatory sites and decreased expression of the homing receptor α4β7. Finally, these abnormalities in T-PPAR Teff function were not elicited by lymphopenia alone but also required the additional activation involved in the mediation of autoimmunity. Thus, in contrast to its documented immunosuppressive role, we identified an unexpected function for PPARγ in Teffs: a role in Teff proliferation and survival in lymphopenia-associated autoimmunity. These findings highlight both the multifunctional role of PPARγ in T cells and the complexity of PPARγ as a potential therapeutic target in autoimmunity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adoptive Transfer
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / immunology
  • Autoimmunity / immunology*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Separation
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Lymphopenia / immunology*
  • Lymphopenia / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • PPAR gamma / immunology*
  • PPAR gamma / metabolism


  • Cytokines
  • PPAR gamma