T-bet is a critical transcription factor for T helper 1 (Th1) cell differentiation. To study the regulation and functions of T-bet, we developed a T-bet-ZsGreen reporter mouse strain. We determined that interleukin-12 (IL-12) and interferon-γ (IFN-γ) were redundant in inducing T-bet in mice infected with Toxoplasma gondii and that T-bet did not contribute to its own expression when induced by IL-12 and IFN-γ. By contrast, T-bet and the transcription factor Stat4 were critical for IFN-γ production whereas IFN-γ signaling was dispensable for inducing IFN-γ. Loss of T-bet resulted in activation of an endogenous program driving Th2 cell differentiation in cells expressing T-bet-ZsGreen. Genome-wide analyses indicated that T-bet directly induced many Th1 cell-related genes but indirectly suppressed Th2 cell-related genes. Our study revealed redundancy and synergy among several Th1 cell-inducing pathways in regulating the expression of T-bet and IFN-γ, and a critical role of T-bet in suppressing an endogenous Th2 cell-associated program.
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