TLRs sense various microbial products. Their function has been best characterized in DCs and macrophages, where they act as important mediators of innate immunity. TLR4 is also expressed on CD4+ T cells, but its physiological function on these cells remains unknown. Here, we have shown that TLR4 triggering on CD4+ T cells affects their phenotype and their ability to provoke intestinal inflammation. In a model of spontaneous colitis, Il10–/–Tlr4–/– mice displayed accelerated development of disease, with signs of overt colitis as early as 8 weeks of age, when compared with Il10–/– and Il10–/–Tlr9–/– mice, which did not develop colitis by 8 months. Similar results were obtained in a second model of colitis in which transfer of naive Il10–/–Tlr4–/– CD4+ T cells into Rag1–/– recipients sufficient for both IL-10 and TLR4 induced more aggressive colitis than the transfer of naive Il10–/– CD4+ T cells. Mechanistically, LPS stimulation of TLR4-bearing CD4+ T cells inhibited ERK1/2 activation upon subsequent TCR stimulation via the induction of MAPK phosphatase 3 (MKP-3). Our data therefore reveal a tonic inhibitory role for TLR4 signaling on subsequent TCR-dependent CD4+ T cell responses.
José M. González-Navajas, Sean Fine, Jason Law, Sandip K. Datta, Kim P. Nguyen, Mandy Yu, Maripat Corr, Kyoko Katakura, Lars Eckman, Jongdae Lee, Eyal Raz