In multiple sclerosis (MS), Th17 cells are critical drivers of autoimmune central nervous system (CNS) inflammation and demyelination. Th17 cells exhibit functional heterogeneity fostering both pathogenic and nonpathogenic, tissue-protective functions. Still, the factors that control Th17 pathogenicity remain incompletely defined. Here, using experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, an established mouse MS model, we report that therapeutic administration of activin-A ameliorates disease severity and alleviates CNS immunopathology and demyelination, associated with decreased activation of Th17 cells. In fact, activin-A signaling through activin-like kinase-4 receptor represses pathogenic transcriptional programs in Th17-polarized cells, while it enhances antiinflammatory gene modules. Whole-genome profiling and in vivo functional studies revealed that activation of the ATP-depleting CD39 and CD73 ectonucleotidases is essential for activin-A-induced suppression of the pathogenic signature and the encephalitogenic functions of Th17 cells. Mechanistically, the aryl hydrocarbon receptor, along with STAT3 and c-Maf, are recruited to promoter elements on Entpd1 and Nt5e (encoding CD39 and CD73, respectively) and other antiinflammatory genes, and control their expression in Th17 cells in response to activin-A. Notably, we show that activin-A negatively regulates the metabolic sensor, hypoxia-inducible factor-1α, and key inflammatory proteins linked to pathogenic Th17 cell states. Of translational relevance, we demonstrate that activin-A is induced in the CNS of individuals with MS and restrains human Th17 cell responses. These findings uncover activin-A as a critical controller of Th17 cell pathogenicity that can be targeted for the suppression of autoimmune CNS inflammation.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - Jun 2 2020|
- Autoimmune neuroinflammation
- Th17 cell differentiation
ASJC Scopus subject areas