Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 19737866
J. Exp. Med. 2009 Sep;206(10):2079-89
T helper cells secreting interleukin (IL)-17 (Th17 cells) play a crucial role in autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS). Th17 differentiation, which is induced by a combination of transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta/IL-6 or IL-21, requires expression of the transcription factor retinoic acid receptor-related orphan receptor gamma t (ROR gamma t). We identify the nuclear receptor peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPAR gamma) as a key negative regulator of human and mouse Th17 differentiation. PPAR gamma activation in CD4(+) T cells selectively suppressed Th17 differentiation, but not differentiation into Th1, Th2, or regulatory T cells. Control of Th17 differentiation by PPAR gamma involved inhibition of TGF-beta/IL-6-induced expression of ROR gamma t in T cells. Pharmacologic activation of PPAR gamma prevented removal of the silencing mediator for retinoid and thyroid hormone receptors corepressor from the ROR gamma t promoter in T cells, thus interfering with ROR gamma t transcription. Both T cell-specific PPAR gamma knockout and endogenous ligand activation revealed the physiological role of PPAR gamma for continuous T cell-intrinsic control of Th17 differentiation and development of autoimmunity. Importantly, human CD4(+) T cells from healthy controls and MS patients were strongly susceptible to PPAR gamma-mediated suppression of Th17 differentiation. In summary, we report a PPAR gamma-mediated T cell-intrinsic molecular mechanism that selectively controls Th17 differentiation in mice and in humans and that is amenable to pharmacologic modulation. We therefore propose that PPAR gamma represents a promising molecular target for specific immunointervention in Th17-mediated autoimmune diseases such as MS.