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Kv1.3 deletion biases T cells toward an immunoregulatory phenotype and renders mice resistant to autoimmune encephalomyelitis

Gocke, AR;Lebson, LA;Grishkan, IV;Hu, L;Nguyen, HM;Whartenby, KA;Chandy, KG;Calabresi, PA;

Increasing evidence suggests ion channels have critical functions in the differentiation and plasticity of T cells. Kv1.3, a voltage-gated K(+) channel, is a functional marker and a pharmacological target for activated effector memory T cells. Selective Kv1.3 blockers have been shown to inhibit proliferation and cytokine production by human and rat effector memory T cells. We used Kv1.3 knockout (KO) mice to investigate the mechanism by which Kv1.3 blockade affects CD4(+) T cell differentiation during an inflammatory immune-mediated disease. Kv1.3 KO animals displayed significantly lower incidence and severity of myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG) peptide-induced experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. Kv1.3 was the only K(V) channel expressed in MOG 35-55-specific CD4(+) T cell blasts, and no K(V) current was present in MOG-specific CD4(+) T cell-blasts from Kv1.3 KO mice. Fewer CD4(+) T cells migrated to the CNS in Kv1.3 KO mice following disease induction, and Ag-specific proliferation of CD4(+) T cells from these mice was impaired with a corresponding cell-cycle delay. Kv1.3 was required for optimal expression of IFN- and IL-17, whereas its absence led to increased IL-10 production. Dendritic cells from Kv1.3 KO mice fully activated wild-type CD4(+) T cells, indicating a T cell-intrinsic defect in Kv1.3 KO mice. The loss of Kv1.3 led to a suppressive phenotype, which may contribute to the mechanism by which deletion of Kv1.3 produces an immunotherapeutic effect. Skewing of CD4(+) T cell differentiation toward Ag-specific regulatory T cells by pharmacological blockade or genetic suppression of Kv1.3 might be beneficial for therapy of immune-mediated diseases such as multiple sclerosis.