Foxp3 controls the development and function of regulatory T (Treg) cells, but it remains elusive how Foxp3 functions in vivo. Here, we established mouse models harboring three unique missense Foxp3 mutations that were identified in patients with the autoimmune disease IPEX. The I363V and R397W mutations were loss-of-function mutations, causing multi-organ inflammation by globally compromising Treg cell physiology. By contrast, the A384T mutation induced a distinctive tissue-restricted inflammation by specifically impairing the ability of Treg cells to compete with pathogenic T cells in certain non-lymphoid tissues. Mechanistically, repressed BATF expression contributed to these A384T effects. At the molecular level, the A384T mutation altered Foxp3 interactions with its specific target genes includingBatfby broadening its DNA-binding specificity. Our findings identify BATF as a critical regulator of tissue Treg cells and suggest that sequence-specific perturbations of Foxp3-DNA interactions can influence specific facets of Treg cell physiology and the immunopathologies they regulate.
Hayatsu et al. report that an IPEX-associated Foxp3 mutation has expanded DNA recognition specificity and impairs tissue Treg cell fitness by repressing Batf. Their findings identify BATF as a critical regulator of tissue Treg cells and suggest that polymorphisms that impact Foxp3-DNA interactions may contribute to susceptibility to autoimmune disease.