PPARγ marks splenic precursors of multiple nonlymphoid-tissue Treg compartments

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 Mar 30;118(13):e2025197118. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2025197118.


Foxp3+CD4+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) regulate most types of immune response as well as several processes important for tissue homeostasis, for example, metabolism and repair. Dedicated Treg compartments-with distinct transcriptomes, T cell receptor repertoires, and growth/survival factor dependencies-have been identified in several nonlymphoid tissues. These Tregs are specifically adapted to function and operate in their home tissue-When, where, and how do they take on their specialized characteristics? We recently reported that a splenic Treg population expressing low levels of the transcription factor PPARγ (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma) contains precursors of Tregs residing in visceral adipose tissue. This finding made sense given that PPARγ, the "master regulator" of adipocyte differentiation, is required for the accumulation and function of Tregs in visceral adipose tissue but not in lymphoid tissues. Here we use single-cell RNA sequencing, single-cell Tcra and Tcrb sequencing, and adoptive-transfer experiments to show that, unexpectedly, the splenic PPARγlo Treg population is transcriptionally heterogeneous and engenders Tregs in multiple nonlymphoid tissues beyond visceral adipose tissue, such as skin and liver. The existence of a general pool of splenic precursors for nonlymphoid-tissue Tregs opens possibilities for regulating their emergence experimentally or therapeutically.

Keywords: immunoregulation; precursor; single-cell RNA-seq; tissue Treg cell.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adoptive Transfer
  • Animals
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / immunology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • PPAR alpha / genetics
  • PPAR alpha / metabolism*
  • RNA-Seq
  • Single-Cell Analysis
  • Spleen / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*
  • Transcriptome*


  • PPAR alpha
  • Ppara protein, mouse