Regulatory T (Treg) cells require Foxp3 expression and induction of a specific DNA hypomethylation signature during development, after which Treg cells persist as a self-renewing population that regulates immune system activation. Whether maintenance DNA methylation is required for Treg cell lineage development and stability and how methylation patterns are maintained during lineage self-renewal remain unclear. Here, we demonstrate that the epigenetic regulator Uhrf1 is essential for maintenance of methyl-DNA marks that stabilize Treg cellular identity by repressing effector T cell transcriptional programs. Constitutive and induced deficiency of Uhrf1 within Foxp3+ cells resulted in global yet non-uniform loss of DNA methylation, derepression of inflammatory transcriptional programs, destabilization of the Treg cell lineage, and spontaneous inflammation. These findings support a paradigm in which maintenance DNA methylation is required in distinct regions of the Treg cell genome for both lineage establishment and stability of identity and suppressive function.
Kathryn A. Helmin, Luisa Morales-Nebreda, Manuel A. Torres Acosta, Kishore R. Anekalla, Shang-Yang Chen, Hiam Abdala-Valencia, Yuliya Politanska, Paul Cheresh, Mahzad Akbarpour, Elizabeth M. Steinert, Samuel E. Weinberg, Benjamin D. Singer