Tu E, Chia CPZ, Chen W, Zhang D, Park SA, Jin W, Wang D, Alegre ML, Zhang YE, Sun L, Chen W
It is unclear how quiescence is enforced in naive T cells, but activation by foreign antigens and self-antigens is allowed, despite the presence of inhibitory signals. We showed that active transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) signaling was present in naive T cells, and T cell receptor (TCR) engagement reduced TGF-β signaling during T cell activation by downregulating TGF-β type 1 receptor (TβRI) through activation of caspase recruitment domain-containing protein 11 (CARD11) and nuclear factor κB (NF-κB). TGF-β prevented TCR-mediated TβRI downregulation, but this was abrogated by interleukin-6 (IL-6). Mitigation of TCR-mediated TβRI downregulation through overexpression of TβRI in naive and activated T cells rendered T cells less responsive and suppressed autoimmunity. Naive T cells in autoimmune patients exhibited reduced TβRI expression and increased TCR-driven proliferation compared to healthy subjects. Thus, TCR-mediated regulation of TβRI-TGF-β signaling acts as a crucial criterion to determine T cell quiescence and activation.