A Notch/STAT3-driven Blimp-1/c-Maf-dependent molecular switch induces IL-10 expression in human CD4+ T cells and is defective in Crohn´s disease patients.


Jonas Ahlers, Andrej Mantei, Laura Lozza, Manuela Stäber, Frederik Heinrich, Petra Bacher, Thordis Hohnstein, Lutz Menzel, Simge G Yüz, Daniel Alvarez-Simon, Anne Rieke Bickenbach, Carl Weidinger, Nadine Mockel-Tenbrinck, Anja A Kühl, Britta Siegmund, Jochen Maul, Christian Neumann, Alexander Scheffold

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Immunosuppressive Interleukin (IL)-10 production by pro-inflammatory CD4+ T cells is a central self-regulatory function to limit aberrant inflammation. Still, the molecular mediators controlling IL-10 expression in human CD4+ T cells are largely undefined. Here, we identify a Notch/STAT3 signaling-module as a universal molecular switch to induce IL-10 expression across human naïve and major effector CD4+ T cell subsets. IL-10 induction was transient, jointly controlled by the transcription factors Blimp-1/c-Maf and accompanied by upregulation of several co-inhibitory receptors, including LAG-3, CD49b, PD-1, TIM-3 and TIGIT. Consistent with a protective role of IL-10 in inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), effector CD4+ T cells from Crohn’s disease patients were defective in Notch/STAT3-induced IL-10 production and skewed towards an inflammatory Th1/17 cell phenotype. Collectively, our data identify a Notch/STAT3-Blimp-1/c-Maf axis as a common anti-inflammatory pathway in human CD4+ T cells, which is defective in IBD and thus may represent an attractive therapeutic target.