High Glucose Intake Exacerbates Autoimmunity through Reactive-Oxygen-Species-Mediated TGF-β Cytokine Activation

Immunity. 2019 Oct 15;51(4):671-681.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2019.08.001. Epub 2019 Aug 23.


Diet has been suggested to be a potential environmental risk factor for the increasing incidence of autoimmune diseases, yet the underlying mechanisms remain elusive. Here, we show that high glucose intake exacerbated autoimmunity in mouse models of colitis and experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). We elucidated that high amounts of glucose specifically promoted T helper-17 (Th17) cell differentiation by activating transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) from its latent form through upregulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in T cells. We further determined that mitochondrial ROS (mtROS) are key for high glucose-induced TGF-β activation and Th17 cell generation. We have thus revealed a previously unrecognized mechanism underlying the adverse effects of high glucose intake in the pathogenesis of autoimmunity and inflammation.

Keywords: CD4 T cells; EAE; IL-17; RORγt; ROS; T helper-17 cells; Th17; autoimmune diseases; colitis; high glucose; mitochondria; transforming growth factor-β.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmunity
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Diet
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Eating / immunology*
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / immunology*
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / immunology*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Th17 Cells / immunology*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Glucose