The specification of the αβ/γδ lineage and the maturation of medullary thymic epithelial cells (mTECs) coordinate central tolerance to self-antigens. However, the mechanisms underlying this biological process remain poorly clarified. Here, we report that dual-stage loss of TOX in thymocytes hierarchically impaired mTEC maturation, promoted thymic IL-17A-producing γδ T-cell (Tγδ17) lineage commitment, and led to the development of fatal autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) via different mechanisms. Transfer of γδ T cells from TOX-deficient mice reproduced AIH. TOX interacted with and stabilized the TCF1 protein to maintain the balance of γδ T-cell development in thymic progenitors, and overexpression of TCF1 normalized αβ/γδ lineage specification and activation. In addition, TOX expression was downregulated in γδ T cells from AIH patients and was inversely correlated with the AIH diagnostic score. Our findings suggest multifaceted roles of TOX in autoimmune control involving mTEC and Tγδ17 development and provide a potential diagnostic marker for AIH.
Keywords: Autoimmune hepatitis; IL-17A; Immune tolerance; TOX; γδ T cell.
© 2022. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to CSI and USTC.