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Autoimmune memory T helper 17 cell function and expansion are dependent on interleukin-23

Haines, CJ;Chen, Y;Blumenschein, WM;Jain, R;Chang, C;Joyce-Shaikh, B;Porth, K;Boniface, K;Mattson, J;Basham, B;Anderton, SM;McClanahan, TK;Sadekova, S;Cua, DJ;McGeachy, MJ;

Interleukin-23 (IL-23) is essential for the differentiation of pathogenic effector T helper 17 (Th17) cells, but its role in memory Th17 cell responses is unclear. Using the experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) model, we report that memory Th17 cells rapidly expanded in response to rechallenge and migrated to the CNS in high numbers, resulting in earlier onset and increased severity of clinical disease. Memory Th17 cells were generated from IL-17+ and RORt+ precursors, and the stability of the Th17 cell phenotype depended on the amount of time allowed for the primary response. IL-23 was required for this enhanced recall response. IL-23 receptor blockade did not directly impact IL-17 production, but did impair the subsequent proliferation and generation of effectors coexpressing the Th1 cell-specific transcription factor T-bet. In addition, many genes required for cell-cycle progression were downregulated in Th17 cells that lacked IL-23 signaling, showing that a major mechanism for IL-23 in primary and memory Th17 cell responses operates via regulation of proliferation-associated pathways.