Pathogenic lymphocytes initiate the development of chronic inflammatory diseases. The cytokine granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) (encoded by Csf2) is a key communicator between pathogenic lymphocytes and tissue-invading inflammatory phagocytes. However, the molecular properties of GM-CSF-producing cells and the mode of Csf2 regulation in vivo remain unclear. To systematically study and manipulate GM-CSF+ cells and their progeny in vivo, we generated a fate-map and reporter of GM-CSF expression mouse strain (FROG). We mapped the phenotypic and functional profile of auto-aggressive T helper (Th) cells during neuroinflammation and identified the signature and pathogenic memory of a discrete encephalitogenic Th subset. These cells required interleukin-23 receptor (IL-23R) and IL-1R but not IL-6R signaling for their maintenance and pathogenicity. Specific ablation of this subset interrupted the inflammatory cascade, despite the unperturbed tissue accumulation of other Th subsets (e.g., Th1 and Th17), highlighting that GM-CSF expression not only marks pathogenic Th cells, but that this subset mediates immunopathology and tissue destruction.
Keywords: CXCR6; EAE; GM-CSF; IL-1R; IL-23R; cytokines; epigenetic modification; fate-map; multiple sclerosis; pathogenic T cells; reporter.
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