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J Exp Med. 2006 Aug 7;203(8):2009-19. Epub 2006 Jul 31.

T-bet negatively regulates autoimmune myocarditis by suppressing local production of interleukin 17.

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  • 1Institute for Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, A-1030 Vienna, Austria.


Experimental autoimmune myocarditis (EAM) appears after infectious heart disease, the most common cause of dilated cardiomyopathy in humans. Here we report that mice lacking T-bet, a T-box transcription factor required for T helper (Th)1 cell differentiation and interferon (IFN)-gamma production, develop severe autoimmune heart disease compared to T-bet+/+ control mice. Experiments in T-bet-/- IL-4-/- and T-bet-/- IL-4Ralpha-/- mice, as well as transfer of heart-specific Th1 and Th2 cell lines, showed that autoimmune heart disease develops independently of Th1 or Th2 polarization. Analysis of T-bet-/- IL-12Rbeta1-/- and T-bet-/- IL-12p35-/- mice then identified interleukin (IL)-23 as critical for EAM pathogenesis. In addition, T-bet-/- mice showed a marked increase in production of the IL-23-dependent cytokine IL-17 by heart-infiltrating lymphocytes, and in vivo IL-17 depletion markedly reduced EAM severity in T-bet-/- mice. Heart-infiltrating T-bet-/- CD8+ but not CD8- T cells secrete IFN-gamma, which inhibits IL-17 production and protects against severe EAM. In contrast, T-bet-/- CD8+ lymphocytes completely lost their capacity to release IFN-gamma within the heart. Collectively, these data show that severe IL-17-mediated EAM can develop in the absence of T-bet, and that T-bet can regulate autoimmunity via the control of nonspecific CD8+ T cell bystander functions in the inflamed target organ.

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