Identification of unstable regulatory and autoreactive effector T cells that are expanded in patients with FOXP3 mutations

Šimon Borna, Esmond Lee, Jason Nideffer, Akshaya Ramachandran, Bing Wang, Jeanette Baker, Melissa Mavers, Uma Lakshmanan, Mansi Narula, Amy Kang Hee Garrett, Janika Schulze, Sven Olek, Louis Marois, Yael Gernez, Monica Bhatia, Hey Jin Chong, Jolan Walter, Maleewan Kitcharoensakkul, Abigail Lang, Megan A. CooperAlice Bertaina, Maria Grazia Roncarolo, Eric Meffre, Rosa Bacchetta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Studies of the monogenic autoimmune disease immunodysregulation polyendocrinopathy enteropathy X-linked syndrome (IPEX) have elucidated the essential function of the transcription factor FOXP3 and thymic-derived regulatory T cells (Tregs) in controlling peripheral tolerance. However, the presence and the source of autoreactive T cells in IPEX remain undetermined. Here, we investigated how FOXP3 deficiency affects the T cell receptor (TCR) repertoire and Treg stability in vivo and compared T cell abnormalities in patients with IPEX with those in patients with autoimmune polyendocrinopathy-candidiasis-ectodermal dystrophy syndrome (APECED). To study Tregs independently of their phenotype and to analyze T cell autoreactivity, we combined Treg-specific demethylation region analyses, single-cell multiomic profiling, and bulk TCR sequencing. We found that patients with IPEX, unlike patients with APECED, have expanded autoreactive T cells originating from both autoreactive effector T cells (Teffs) and Tregs. In addition, a fraction of the expanded Tregs from patients with IPEX lost their phenotypic and functional markers, including CD25 and FOXP3. Functional experiments with CRISPR-Cas9-mediated FOXP3 knockout Tregs and Tregs from patients with IPEX indicated that the patients' Tregs gain a TH2-skewed Teff-like function, which is consistent with immune dysregulation observed in these patients. Analyses of FOXP3 mutation-carrier mothers and a patient with IPEX after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation indicated that Tregs expressing nonmutated FOXP3 prevent the accumulation of autoreactive Teffs and unstable Tregs. These findings could be directly used for diagnostic and prognostic purposes and for monitoring the effects of immunomodulatory treatments.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbereadg6822
JournalScience translational medicine
Issue number727
StatePublished - 2023


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