Experimental & Molecular Medicine
Pathogenic conversion of Th17 cells into multifunctional helper T cells or Th1 cells contributes to the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases; however, the mechanism regulating the plasticity of Th17 cells remains unclear. Here, we found that Th17 cells expressed latent TGF-β1 in a manner dependent on autocrine TGF-β1. By employing IL-17-producing cell-specific Tgfb1 conditional knockout and fate-mapping systems, we demonstrated that TGF-β1-deficient Th17 cells are relatively susceptible to becoming IFN-γ producers through IL-12Rβ2 and IL-27Rα upregulation. TGF-β1-deficient Th17 cells exacerbated tissue inflammation compared to TGF-β1-sufficient Th17 cells in adoptive transfer models of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis and colitis. Thus, TGF-β1 production by Th17 cells provides an essential autocrine signal for maintaining the stability and regulating the pathogenicity of Th17 cells in vivo.