Dendritic cells (DCs) promote either tolerogenic or immunogenic T cell responses, the latter upon sensing microbes. Using an in vitro system, we analyzed transcriptional determinants that enable mature DCs to direct these opposing T cell outcomes. In the absence of microbial products, the transcription factor interferon regulatory factor 4 (IRF4) promotes regulatory T cell (Treg) generation by enhancing expression of genes required for antigen presentation along with those for T cell tolerance. IRF4-deficient DCs were impaired for Treg generation in vivo. When exposed to microbial stimuli, DCs activated nuclear factor (NF)-κB, which induced expression of a proinflammatory cytokine module that, along with the antigen presentation module, promoted the generation of effector T cells. NF-κB was, however, dispensable for Treg development. Chromatin profiling revealed transcriptional motifs associated with the divergent DC programs. Thus, DCs modulate their ability to prime tolerogenic or immunogenic T cells by expressing a core antigen presentation module that is overlaid by distinctive regulatory modules to promote either tolerance or immunity.
- Submitted: 3 December 2015
- Revision received 21 October 2016
- Accepted: 30 December 2016