Tgf-1 Regulates Antigen-Specific Cd4+ T Cell Responses in the Periphery

Robinson, R.T.; Gorham, J.D.

The Journal of Immunology 179(1): 71-79


DOI: 10.4049/jimmunol.179.1.71
Accession: 068490647

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T cell expansion typically is due to cognate interactions with specific Ag, although T cells can be experimentally activated through bystander mechanisms not involving specific Ag. TGF-beta1 knockout mice exhibit a striking expansion of CD4+ T cells in the liver by 11 days of age, accompanied by CD4+T cell-dependent necroinflammatory liver disease. To examine whether hepatic CD4+T cell expansion in TGF-beta1(-/-) mice is due to cognate TCR-peptide interactions, we used spectratype analysis to examine the diversity in TCR Vbeta repertoires in peripheral CD4+T cells. We reasoned that Ag-nonspecific T cell responses would yield spectratype profiles similar to those derived from control polyclonal T cell populations, whereas Ag-specific T cell responses would yield perturbed spectratype profiles. Spleen and liver CD4+T cells from 11-day-old TGF-beta1(-/-) mice characteristically exhibited highly perturbed nonpolyclonal distributions of TCR Vbeta CDR3 lengths, indicative of Ag-driven T cell responses. We quantitatively assessed spectratype perturbation to derive a spectratype complexity score. Spectratype complexity scores were considerably higher for TGF-beta1(-/-) CD4+ T cells than for TGF-beta1(+/-) CD4+T cells. TCR repertoire perturbations were apparent as early as postnatal day 3 and preceded both hepatic T cell expansion and liver damage. By contrast, TGF-beta1(-/-) CD4+ single-positive thymocytes from 11-day-old mice exhibited normal unbiased spectratype profiles. These results indicate that CD4+ T cells in TGF-beta1(-/-) mice are activated by and respond to self-Ags present in the periphery, and define a key role for TGF-beta1 in the peripheral regulation of Ag-specific CD4+ T cell responses.