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J Immunol. 2008 May 1;180(9):6070-6.

Loss of STAT3 in CD4+ T cells prevents development of experimental autoimmune diseases.

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Section of Molecular Immunology, Laboratory of Immunology, National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health, 10 Center Drive, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Th17 cells are implicated in CNS autoimmune diseases. We show that mice with targeted-deletion of Stat3 in CD4(+) T cells (CD4(Stat3)(-/-)) do not develop experimental autoimmune uveoretinitis (EAU) or experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. Defective Th17 differentiation noted in CD4(Stat3)(-/-) mice is compensated by exaggerated increases in Foxp3-, IL-10-, IL-4-, and IFN-gamma-expressing T cells, suggesting critical roles of STAT3 in shaping Ag-specific CD4(+) T cell repertoire. In mice with EAU, a high percentage of IL-17-expressing T cells in their peripheral lymphoid organs also secrete IFN-gamma while these double-expressors are absent in CD4(Stat3)(-/-) and wild-type mice without EAU, raising the intriguing possibility that uveitis maybe mediated by Th17 and IL-17-expressing Th1 cells. Resistance of Stat3-deficient mice to EAU derives in part from an inability of uveitogenic Th17 and Th1 cells to enter eyes or brain of the CD4(Stat3)(-/-) mouse because of the reduction in the expression of activated alpha4/beta1 integrins on CD4(Stat3)(-/-) T cells. Adoptive transfer of activated interphotoreceptor retinoid-binding protein-specific uveitogenic T cells induced in CD4(Stat3)(-/-) mice a severe EAU characterized by development of retinal folds, infiltration of inflammatory cells into the retina, and destruction of retinal architecture, underscoring our contention that the loss of STAT3 in CD4(+) T cells results in an intrinsic developmental defect that renders CD4(Stat3)(-/-) resistant to CNS inflammatory diseases. STAT3 requirement for IL-17 production by Th17, generation of double positive T cells expressing IL-17 and IFN-gamma, and for T cell trafficking into CNS tissues suggests that STAT3 may be a therapeutic target for modulating uveitis, sceritis, or multiple sclerosis.

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