Regulatory T cells (Treg cells) are required for immune homeostasis. Chromatin remodeling is essential for establishing diverse cellular identities, but how the epigenetic program in Treg cells is maintained throughout the dynamic activation process remains unclear. Here we have shown that CD28 co-stimulation, an extracellular cue intrinsically required for Treg cell maintenance, induced the chromatin-modifying enzyme, Ezh2. Treg-specific ablation of Ezh2 resulted in spontaneous autoimmunity with reduced Foxp3(+) cells in non-lymphoid tissues and impaired resolution of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. Utilizing a model designed to selectively deplete wild-type Treg cells in adult mice co-populated with Ezh2-deficient Treg cells, Ezh2-deficient cells were destabilized and failed to prevent autoimmunity. After activation, the transcriptome of Ezh2-deficient Treg cells was disrupted, with altered expression of Treg cell lineage genes in a pattern similar to Foxp3-deficient Treg cells. These studies reveal a critical role for Ezh2 in the maintenance of Treg cell identity during cellular activation.
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