γδ T cells rapidly secrete inflammatory cytokines at barrier sites that aid in protection from pathogens, but mechanisms limiting inflammatory damage remain unclear. We found that retinoid-related orphan receptor gamma-t (RORγt) and interleukin-7 (IL-7) influence γδ T cell homeostasis and function by regulating expression of the inhibitory receptor, B and T lymphocyte attenuator (BTLA). The transcription factor RORγt, via its activating function-2 domain, repressed Btla transcription, whereas IL-7 increased BTLA levels on the cell surface. BTLA expression limited γδ T cell numbers and sustained normal γδ T cell subset frequencies by restricting IL-7 responsiveness and expansion of the CD27(-)RORγt(+) population. BTLA also negatively regulated IL-17 and TNF production in CD27(-) γδ T cells. Consequently, BTLA-deficient mice exhibit enhanced disease in a γδ T cell-dependent model of dermatitis, whereas BTLA agonism reduced inflammation. Therefore, by coordinating expression of BTLA, RORγt and IL-7 balance suppressive and activation stimuli to regulate γδ T cell homeostasis and inflammatory responses.
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