Bcl11b sustains multipotency and restricts effector programs of intestinal-resident memory CD8+ T cells

Sci Immunol. 2023 Apr 28;8(82):eabn0484. doi: 10.1126/sciimmunol.abn0484. Epub 2023 Apr 28.


The networks of transcription factors (TFs) that control intestinal-resident memory CD8+ T (TRM) cells, including multipotency and effector programs, are poorly understood. In this work, we investigated the role of the TF Bcl11b in TRM cells during infection with Listeria monocytogenes using mice with post-activation, conditional deletion of Bcl11b in CD8+ T cells. Conditional deletion of Bcl11b resulted in increased numbers of intestinal TRM cells and their precursors as well as decreased splenic effector and circulating memory cells and precursors. Loss of circulating memory cells was in part due to increased intestinal homing of Bcl11b-/- circulating precursors, with no major alterations in their programs. Bcl11b-/- TRM cells had altered transcriptional programs, with diminished expression of multipotent/multifunctional (MP/MF) program genes, including Tcf7, and up-regulation of the effector program genes, including Prdm1. Bcl11b also limits the expression of Ahr, another TF with a role in intestinal CD8+ TRM cell differentiation. Deregulation of TRM programs translated into a poor recall response despite TRM cell accumulation in the intestine. Reduced expression of MP/MF program genes in Bcl11b-/- TRM cells was linked to decreased chromatin accessibility and a reduction in activating histone marks at these loci. In contrast, the effector program genes displayed increased activating epigenetic status. These findings demonstrate that Bcl11b is a frontrunner in the tissue residency program of intestinal memory cells upstream of Tcf1 and Blimp1, promoting multipotency and restricting the effector program.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes* / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Intestines
  • Mice
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors* / genetics
  • Transcription Factors* / metabolism
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / metabolism


  • Transcription Factors
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • Bcl11b protein, mouse
  • Repressor Proteins