The Transcription Factor T-bet Limits Amplification of Type I IFN Transcriptome and Circuitry in T Helper 1 Cells

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Host defense requires the specification of CD4+ helper T (Th) cells into distinct fates, including Th1 cells that preferentially produce interferon-γ (IFN-γ). IFN-γ, a member of a large family of anti-pathogenic and anti-tumor IFNs, induces T-bet, a lineage-defining transcription factor for Th1 cells, which in turn supports IFN-γ production in a feed-forward manner. Herein, we show that a cell-intrinsic role of T-bet influences how T cells perceive their secreted product in the environment. In the absence of T-bet, IFN-γ aberrantly induced a type I IFN transcriptomic program. T-bet preferentially repressed genes and pathways ordinarily activated by type I IFNs to ensure that its transcriptional response did not evoke an aberrant amplification of type I IFN signaling circuitry, otherwise triggered by its own product. Thus, in addition to promoting Th1 effector commitment, T-bet acts as a repressor in differentiated Th1 cells to prevent abberant autocrine type I IFN and downstream signaling.

T-bet directs T helper 1 cell differentiation and IFN-γ production. Iwata et al. find that T-bet also acts as a repressor of type I IFN transcription factors and type-I-IFN-stimulated genes and collectively restrains IFN-γ-induced collateral type I IFN circuitry during the Th1 response.

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