Regulatory T cells require IL6 receptor alpha signaling to control skeletal muscle function and regeneration

Cell Metab. 2023 Oct 3;35(10):1736-1751.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2023.08.010. Epub 2023 Sep 20.


Muscle-residing regulatory T cells (Tregs) control local tissue integrity and function. However, the molecular interface connecting Treg-based regulation with muscle function and regeneration remains largely unexplored. Here, we show that exercise fosters a stable induction of highly functional muscle-residing Tregs with increased expression of amphiregulin (Areg), EGFR, and ST2. Mechanistically, we find that mice lacking IL6Rα on T cells (TKO) harbor significant reductions in muscle Treg functionality and satellite and fibro-adipogenic progenitor cells, which are required for muscle regeneration. Using exercise and sarcopenia models, IL6Rα TKO mice demonstrate deficits in Tregs, their functional maturation, and a more pronounced decline in muscle mass. Muscle injury models indicate that IL6Rα TKO mice have significant disabilities in muscle regeneration. Treg gain of function restores impaired muscle repair in IL6Rα TKO mice. Of note, pharmacological IL6R blockade in WT mice phenocopies deficits in muscle function identified in IL6Rα TKO mice, thereby highlighting the clinical implications of the findings.

Keywords: IL6Ra signaling; exercise; immune tissue crosstalk; immune-metabolic crosstalk; immunometabolism; injury; muscle function; niche-specific Tregs; tissue Tregs; voluntary wheel running.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipogenesis
  • Animals
  • Mice
  • Muscle, Skeletal* / metabolism
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory* / metabolism


  • Receptors, Interleukin-6