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Nature. 2017 Aug 31;548(7669):602-606. doi: 10.1038/nature23665. Epub 2017 Aug 23.

Homeostatic control of metabolic and functional fitness of Treg cells by LKB1 signalling.

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Department of Immunology, St Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee 38105, USA.
Hartwell Center for Bioinformatics and Biotechnology, St Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee 38105, USA.
Department of Pathology, St Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee 38105, USA.
Metabolomics Platform, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142, USA.
Evergrande Center for Immunologic Diseases, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Regulatory T cells (Treg cells) have a pivotal role in the establishment and maintenance of immunological self-tolerance and homeostasis. Transcriptional programming of regulatory mechanisms facilitates the functional activation of Treg cells in the prevention of diverse types of inflammatory responses. It remains unclear how Treg cells orchestrate their homeostasis and interplay with environmental signals. Here we show that liver kinase B1 (LKB1) programs the metabolic and functional fitness of Treg cells in the control of immune tolerance and homeostasis. Mice with a Treg-specific deletion of LKB1 developed a fatal inflammatory disease characterized by excessive TH2-type-dominant responses. LKB1 deficiency disrupted Treg cell survival and mitochondrial fitness and metabolism, but also induced aberrant expression of immune regulatory molecules including the negative co-receptor PD-1 and the TNF receptor superfamily proteins GITR and OX40. Unexpectedly, LKB1 function in Treg cells was independent of conventional AMPK signalling or the mTORC1-HIF-1α axis, but contributed to the activation of β-catenin signalling for the control of PD-1 and TNF receptor proteins. Blockade of PD-1 activity reinvigorated the ability of LKB1-deficient Treg cells to suppress TH2 responses and the interplay with dendritic cells primed by thymic stromal lymphopoietin. Thus, Treg cells use LKB1 signalling to coordinate their metabolic and immunological homeostasis and to prevent apoptotic and functional exhaustion, thereby orchestrating the balance between immunity and tolerance.

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