Maier E, Hebenstreit D, Posselt G, Hammerl P, Duschl A, Horejs-Hoeck J
The Wnt pathway transcription factor T cell factor 1 (TCF-1) plays essential roles in the control of several developmental processes, including T cell development in the thymus. Although previously regarded as being required only during early T cell development, recent studies demonstrate an important role for TCF-1 in T helper 2 (Th2) cell polarization. TCF-1 was shown to activate expression of the Th2 transcription factor GATA-binding protein 3 (GATA3) and thus to promote the development of IL-4-producing Th2 cells independent of STAT6 signaling. In this study, we show that TCF-1 is down-regulated in human naive CD4(+) T cells cultured under Th2-polarizing conditions. The down-regulation is largely due to the polarizing cytokine IL-4 because IL-4 alone is sufficient to substantially inhibit TCF-1 expression. The IL-4-induced suppression of TCF-1 is mediated by STAT6, as shown by electrophoretic mobility shift assays, chromatin immunoprecipitation, and STAT6 knockdown experiments. Moreover, we found that IL-4/STAT6 predominantly inhibits the shorter, dominant-negative TCF-1 isoforms, which were reported to inhibit IL-4 transcription. Thus, this study provides a model for an IL-4/STAT6-dependent fine tuning mechanism of TCF-1-driven T helper cell polarization.