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J Immunol. 2011 Sep 15;187(6):3338-46. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1004019. Epub 2011 Aug 10.

Autoreactive memory CD4+ T lymphocytes that mediate chronic uveitis reside in the bone marrow through STAT3-dependent mechanisms.

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  • 1Molecular Immunology Section, National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Organ-specific autoimmune diseases are usually characterized by repeated cycles of remission and recurrent inflammation. However, where the autoreactive memory T cells reside in between episodes of recurrent inflammation is largely unknown. In this study, we have established a mouse model of chronic uveitis characterized by progressive photoreceptor cell loss, retinal degeneration, focal retinitis, retinal vasculitis, multifocal choroiditis, and choroidal neovascularization, providing for the first time to our knowledge a useful model for studying long-term pathological consequences of chronic inflammation of the neuroretina. We show that several months after inception of acute uveitis, autoreactive memory T cells specific to retinal autoantigen, interphotoreceptor retinoid-binding protein (IRBP), relocated to bone marrow (BM). The IRBP-specific memory T cells (IL-7Rα(High)Ly6C(High)CD4(+)) resided in BM in resting state but upon restimulation converted to IL-17/IFN-γ-expressing effectors (IL-7Rα(Low)Ly6C(Low)CD4(+)) that mediated uveitis. We further show that T cells from STAT3-deficient (CD4-STAT3KO) mice are defective in α4β1 and osteopontin expression, defects that correlated with inability of IRBP-specific memory CD4-STAT3KO T cells to traffic into BM. We adoptively transferred uveitis to naive mice using BM cells from wild-type mice with chronic uveitis but not BM cells from CD4-STAT3KO, providing direct evidence that memory T cells that mediate uveitis reside in BM and that STAT3-dependent mechanism may be required for migration into and retention of memory T cells in BM. Identifying BM as a survival niche for T cells that cause uveitis suggests that BM stromal cells that provide survival signals to autoreactive memory T cells and STAT3-dependent mechanisms that mediate their relocation into BM are attractive therapeutic targets that can be exploited to selectively deplete memory T cells that drive chronic inflammation.

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