CD8, but not CD4, T cells are considered critical for control of chronic toxoplasmosis. Although CD8 exhaustion has been previously reported in Toxoplasma encephalitis (TE)–susceptible model, our current work demonstrates that CD4 not only become exhausted during chronic toxoplasmosis but this dysfunction is more pronounced than CD8 T cells. Exhausted CD4 population expressed elevated levels of multiple inhibitory receptors concomitant with the reduced functionality and up-regulation of Blimp-1, a transcription factor. Our data demonstrates for the first time that Blimp-1 is a critical regulator for CD4 T cell exhaustion especially in the CD4 central memory cell subset. Using a tamoxifen-dependent conditional Blimp-1 knockout mixed bone marrow chimera as well as an adoptive transfer approach, we show that CD4 T cell–intrinsic deletion of Blimp-1 reversed CD8 T cell dysfunction and resulted in improved pathogen control. To the best of our knowledge, this is a novel finding, which demonstrates the role of Blimp-1 as a critical regulator of CD4 dysfunction and links it to the CD8 T cell dysfunctionality observed in infected mice. The critical role of CD4-intrinsic Blimp-1 expression in mediating CD4 and CD8 T cell exhaustion may provide a rational basis for designing novel therapeutic approaches.
- Submitted: 22 December 2015
- Accepted: 3 June 2016
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