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Activation of Transcription Factor 4 in Dendritic Cells Controls Th1/Th17 Responses and Autoimmune Neuroinflammation

Manoharan, I;Swafford, D;Shanmugam, A;Patel, N;Prasad, PD;Thangaraju, M;Manicassamy, S;

Dendritic cells (DCs) are professional APCs that play a crucial role in initiating robust immune responses against invading pathogens while inducing regulatory responses to the body’s tissues and commensal microorganisms. A breakdown of DC-mediated immunological tolerance leads to chronic inflammation and autoimmune disorders. However, cell-intrinsic molecular regulators that are critical for programming DCs to a regulatory state rather than to an inflammatory state are not known. In this study, we show that the activation of the TCF4 transcription factor in DCs is critical for controlling the magnitude of inflammatory responses and limiting neuroinflammation. DC-specific deletion of TCF4 in mice increased Th1/Th17 responses and exacerbated experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis pathology. Mechanistically, loss of TCF4 in DCs led to heightened activation of p38 MAPK and increased levels of proinflammatory cytokines IL-6, IL-23, IL-1β, TNF-α, and IL-12p40. Consistent with these findings, pharmacological blocking of p38 MAPK activation delayed experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis onset and diminished CNS pathology in TCF4ΔDC mice. Thus, manipulation of the TCF4 pathway in DCs could provide novel opportunities for regulating chronic inflammation and represents a potential therapeutic approach to control autoimmune neuroinflammation.