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Bhlhe40 controls cytokine production by T cells and is essential for pathogenicity in autoimmune neuroinflammation

Lin, CC;Bradstreet, TR;Schwarzkopf, EA;Sim, J;Carrero, JA;Chou, C;Cook, LE;Egawa, T;Taneja, R;Murphy, TL;Russell, JH;Edelson, BT;

TH1 and TH17 cells mediate neuroinflammation in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), a mouse model of multiple sclerosis. Pathogenic TH cells in EAE must produce the pro-inflammatory cytokine granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF). TH cell pathogenicity in EAE is also regulated by cell-intrinsic production of the immunosuppressive cytokine interleukin 10 (IL-10). Here we demonstrate that mice deficient for the basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factor Bhlhe40 (Bhlhe40(-/-)) are resistant to the induction of EAE. Bhlhe40 is required in vivo in a T cell-intrinsic manner, where it positively regulates the production of GM-CSF and negatively regulates the production of IL-10. In vitro, GM-CSF secretion is selectively abrogated in polarized Bhlhe40(-/-) TH1 and TH17 cells, and these cells show increased production of IL-10. Blockade of IL-10 receptor in Bhlhe40(-/-) mice renders them susceptible to EAE. These findings identify Bhlhe40 as a critical regulator of autoreactive T-cell pathogenicity.