In response to activation, CD4+ T cells upregulate autophagy. However, the functional consequences of that upregulation have not been fully elucidated. In this study, we identify autophagy as a tolerance-avoidance mechanism. Our data show that inhibition of autophagy during CD4+ T cell activation induces a long-lasting state of hypo-responsiveness that is accompanied by the expression of an anergic gene signature. Cells unable to induce autophagy after T cell receptor (TCR) engagement show inefficient mitochondrial respiration and decreased turnover of the protein tyrosine phosphatase PTPN1, which translates into defective TCR-mediated signaling. In vivo, inhibition of autophagy during antigen priming induces T cell anergy and decreases the severity of disease in an experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis mouse model. Interestingly, CD4+ T cells isolated from the synovial fluid of juvenile idiopathic arthritis patients, while resistant to suboptimal stimulation-induced anergy, can be tolerized with autophagy inhibitors. We propose that autophagy constitutes a tolerance-avoidance mechanism, which determines CD4+ T cell fate.
Keywords: T cell; anergy; autoimmunity; autophagy.
Copyright © 2018 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.