T-Bet Enhances Regulatory T Cell Fitness and Directs Control of Th1 Responses in Crescentic GN

J Am Soc Nephrol. 2017 Jan;28(1):185-196. doi: 10.1681/ASN.2015070820. Epub 2016 Jun 13.


Th1 cells are central pathogenic mediators of crescentic GN (cGN). Mechanisms responsible for Th1 cell downregulation, however, remain widely unknown. Recently, it was proposed that activation of the Th1-characteristic transcription factor T-bet optimizes Foxp3+ regulatory T (Treg) cells to counteract Th1-type inflammation. Because very little is known about the role of T-bet+ Treg1 cells in inflammatory diseases, we studied the function of these cells in the nephrotoxic nephritis (NTN) model of cGN. The percentage of Treg1 cells progressively increased in kidneys of nephritic wild-type mice during the course of NTN, indicating their functional importance. Notably, naïve Foxp3CrexT-betfl/fl mice, lacking Treg1 cells, showed spontaneous skewing toward Th1 immunity. Furthermore, absence of Treg1 cells resulted in aggravated NTN with selectively dysregulated renal and systemic Th1 responses. Detailed analyses of Treg cells from Foxp3CrexT-betfl/fl mice revealed unaltered cytokine production and suppressive capacity. However, in competitive cotransfer experiments, wild-type Treg cells outcompeted T-bet-deficient Treg cells in terms of population expansion and expression levels of Foxp3, indicating that T-bet expression is crucial for general Treg fitness. Additionally, T-bet-deficient Treg cells lacked expression of the Th1-characteristic trafficking receptor CXCR3, which correlated with significant impairment of renal Treg infiltration. In summary, our data indicate a new subtype of Treg cells in cGN. These Treg1 cells are characterized by activation of the transcription factor T-bet, which enhances the overall fitness of these cells and optimizes their capacity to downregulate Th1 responses by inducing chemokine receptor CXCR3 expression.

Keywords: CXCR3; Treg; Treg1; cytokines; immunology; inflammation.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Glomerulonephritis / immunology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Receptors, CXCR3 / physiology
  • T-Box Domain Proteins / physiology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / physiology*
  • Th1 Cells / physiology*


  • Cxcr3 protein, mouse
  • Receptors, CXCR3
  • T-Box Domain Proteins
  • T-box transcription factor TBX21