Peripheral T cell tolerance is promoted by the regulatory cytokine TGF-β and Foxp3-expressing Treg cells. However, whether TGF-β and Treg cells are part of the same regulatory module, or exist largely as distinct pathways to repress self-reactive T cells remains incompletely understood. Using a transgenic model of autoimmune diabetes, here we show that ablation of TGF-β receptor II (TβRII) in T cells, but not Foxp3 deficiency, resulted in early-onset diabetes with complete penetrance. The rampant autoimmune disease was associated with enhanced T cell priming and elevated T cell expression of the inflammatory cytokine GM-CSF, concomitant with pancreatic infiltration of inflammatory monocytes that triggered immunopathology. Ablation of the GM-CSF receptor alleviated the monocyte response and inhibited disease development. These findings reveal that TGF-β promotes T cell tolerance primarily via Foxp3-independent mechanisms and prevents autoimmunity in this model by repressing the cross talk between adaptive and innate immune systems.
Keywords: T cell; TGF-β; autoimmunity; tolerance.