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J Immunol. 2013 Sep 15;191(6):2926-37. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1300547. Epub 2013 Aug 16.

TLR9 deficiency promotes CD73 expression in T cells and diabetes protection in nonobese diabetic mice.

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Section of Endocrinology, Department of Internal Medicine, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06510, USA.


TLR9-deficient (TLR9⁻/⁻) NOD mice develop a significantly reduced incidence of diabetes. This study was to investigate the molecular mechanisms of the protective role of TLR9 deficiency. Through gene screening and confirmation by both mRNA and protein expression, we found a significant increase in CD73-expressing immune cells from peripheral lymphoid tissues in TLR9⁻/⁻ NOD mice. The elevated frequency of CD73-expressing immune cells seemed to be specific for TLR9 deficiency and was MyD88 independent. Moreover, the increased frequency of CD73 expression was limited to the NOD background. Increased frequency of CD73 expression was also associated with lower levels of proinflammatory cytokines and more anti-inflammatory cytokine production in CD4⁺ T cells in TLR9⁻/⁻ NOD mice. Purified CD73⁺CD4⁺ T cells showed stronger immunosuppressive function in vitro and delayed diabetes development in vivo. The immunosuppression appeared to be mediated by TGF-β. In addition, elevated frequency of CD73-expressing cells was associated with improved β cell function. Our observations were further confirmed by protection from diabetes with similar alterations in CD73 in the NY8.3 TCR NOD mouse model crossed with TLR9⁻/⁻ mice and by the use of a TLR9 inhibitor in NOD mice. Our novel findings suggest an important immune-regulatory role of CD73 in regulation of diabetes development and may offer a new therapeutic strategy for specific intervention to prevent type 1 diabetes.

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