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Nat Immunol. 2019 Jan;20(1):73-85. doi: 10.1038/s41590-018-0274-0. Epub 2018 Dec 10.

The transcription factor c-Maf is essential for the commitment of IL-17-producing γδ T cells.

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Department of Immunology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, USA.
Department of Immunology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, USA.


γδ T cells that produce the cytokine IL-17 (Tγδ17 cells) are innate-like mediators of immunity that undergo effector programming in the thymus. While regulators of Tγδ17 specialization restricted to various Vγ subsets are known, a commitment factor essential to all Tγδ17 cells has remained undefined. In this study, we identified the transcription factor c-Maf as a universal regulator of Tγδ17 cell differentiation and maintenance. Maf deficiency caused an absolute lineage block at the immature CD24+CD45RBlo γδ thymocyte stage, which revealed a critical checkpoint in the acquisition of effector functions. Here, c-Maf enforced Tγδ17 cell identity by promoting chromatin accessibility and expression of key type 17 program genes, notably Rorc and Blk, while antagonizing the transcription factor TCF1, which promotes interferon-γ-producing γδ T cells (Tγδ1 cells). Furthermore, γδ T cell antigen receptor (γδTCR) signal strength tuned c-Maf expression, which indicates that c-Maf is a core node that connects γδTCR signals to Tγδ17 cell transcriptional programming.

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