CD4+ T cell differentiation into multiple T helper (Th) cell lineages is critical for optimal adaptive immune responses. This report identifies an intrinsic mechanism by which programmed death-1 receptor (PD-1) signaling imparted regulatory phenotype to Foxp3+ Th1 cells (denoted as Tbet+iTregPDL1 cells) and inducible regulatory T (iTreg) cells. Tbet+iTregPDL1 cells prevented inflammation in murine models of experimental colitis and experimental graft versus host disease (GvHD). Programmed death ligand-1 (PDL-1) binding to PD-1 imparted regulatory function to Tbet+iTregPDL1 cells and iTreg cells by specifically downregulating endo-lysosomal protease asparaginyl endopeptidase (AEP). AEP regulated Foxp3 stability and blocking AEP imparted regulatory function in Tbet+iTreg cells. Also, Aep-/- iTreg cells significantly inhibited GvHD and maintained Foxp3 expression. PD-1-mediated Foxp3 maintenance in Tbet+ Th1 cells occurred both in tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) and during chronic viral infection. Collectively, this report has identified an intrinsic function for PD-1 in maintaining Foxp3 through proteolytic pathway.
Keywords: AEP; Foxp3; GvHD; LCMV; PD-1; PDL-1; colitis; iTreg; melanoma.
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