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Individual intestinal symbionts induce a distinct population of RORγ+ regulatory T cells

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Science  28 Aug 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6251, pp. 993-997
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa9420

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Gut microbes make T cells keep the peace

Our guts harbor trillions of microbial inhabitants, some of which regulate the types of immune cells that are present in the gut. For instance, Clostridium species of bacteria induce a type of T cell that promotes tolerance between the host and its microbial contents. Ohnmacht et al. and Sefik et al. characterized a population of gut regulatory T cells in mice, which required gut microbiota to survive. Multiple bacterial species of the microbiota could induce transcription factor–expressing regulatory T cells that helped maintain immune homeostasis. Mice engineered to lack these transcription factors exhibited enhanced susceptibility to colonic inflammation and had elevated amounts of proinflammatory molecules associated with allergies (see the Perspective by Hegazy and Powrie).

Science, this issue pp. 989 and 993

Abstract

T regulatory cells that express the transcription factor Foxp3 (Foxp3+ Tregs) promote tissue homeostasis in several settings. We now report that symbiotic members of the human gut microbiota induce a distinct Treg population in the mouse colon, which constrains immuno-inflammatory responses. This induction—which we find to map to a broad, but specific, array of individual bacterial species—requires the transcription factor Rorγ, paradoxically, in that Rorγ is thought to antagonize FoxP3 and to promote T helper 17 (TH17) cell differentiation. Rorγ’s transcriptional footprint differs in colonic Tregs and TH17 cells and controls important effector molecules. Rorγ, and the Tregs that express it, contribute substantially to regulating colonic TH1/TH17 inflammation. Thus, the marked context-specificity of Rorγ results in very different outcomes even in closely related cell types.

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