The transcriptional coregulator OCA-B promotes expression of T cell target genes in cases of repeated antigen exposure, a necessary feature of autoimmunity. We hypothesized that T cell-specific OCA-B deletion and pharmacologic OCA-B inhibition would protect mice from autoimmune diabetes. We developed an Ocab conditional allele and backcrossed it onto a diabetes-prone NOD/ShiLtJ strain background. T cell-specific OCA-B loss protected mice from spontaneous disease. Protection was associated with large reductions in islet CD8+ T cell receptor specificities associated with diabetes pathogenesis. CD4+ clones associated with diabetes were present but associated with anergic phenotypes. The protective effect of OCA-B loss was recapitulated using autoantigen-specific NY8.3 mice but diminished in monoclonal models specific to artificial or neoantigens. Rationally designed membrane-penetrating OCA-B peptide inhibitors normalized glucose levels and reduced T cell infiltration and proinflammatory cytokine expression in newly diabetic NOD mice. Together, the results indicate that OCA-B is a potent autoimmune regulator and a promising target for pharmacologic inhibition.
© 2020 Kim et al.