At the species level, immunity depends on the selection and transmission of protective components of the immune system. A microbe-induced population of RORγ-expressing regulatory T cells (Tregs) is essential in controlling gut inflammation. We uncovered a non-genetic, non-epigenetic, non-microbial mode of transmission of their homeostatic setpoint. RORγ+ Treg proportions varied between inbred mouse strains, a trait transmitted by the mother during a tight age window after birth but stable for life, resistant to many microbial or cellular perturbations, then further transferred by females for multiple generations. RORγ+ Treg proportions negatively correlated with IgA production and coating of gut commensals, traits also subject to maternal transmission, in an immunoglobulin- and RORγ+ Treg-dependent manner. We propose a model based on a double-negative feedback loop, vertically transmitted via the entero-mammary axis. This immunologic mode of multi-generational transmission may provide adaptability and modulate the genetic tuning of gut immune responses and inflammatory disease susceptibility.
Keywords: IgA; Rorγ+; Tregs; colonic Tregs; entero-mammary axis; maternal transmission.
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