SUMOylation is involved in the development of several inflammatory diseases, but the physiological significance of SUMO-modulated c-Maf in autoimmune diabetes is not completely understood. Here, we report that an age-dependent attenuation of c-Maf SUMOylation in CD4+ T cells is positively correlated with the IL-21–mediated diabetogenesis in NOD mice. Using 2 strains of T cell–specific transgenic NOD mice overexpressing wild-type c-Maf (Tg-WTc) or SUMOylation site–mutated c-Maf (Tg-KRc), we demonstrated that Tg-KRc mice developed diabetes more rapidly than Tg-WTc mice in a CD4+ T cell–autonomous manner. Moreover, SUMO-defective c-Maf preferentially transactivated Il21 to promote the development of CD4+ T cells with an extrafollicular helper T cell phenotype and expand the numbers of granzyme B–producing effector/memory CD8+ T cells. Furthermore, SUMO-defective c-Maf selectively inhibited recruitment of Daxx/HDAC2 to the Il21 promoter and enhanced histone acetylation mediated by CREB-binding protein (CBP) and p300. Using pharmacological interference with CBP/p300, we illustrated that CBP30 treatment ameliorated c-Maf–mediated/IL-21–based diabetogenesis. Taken together, our results show that the SUMOylation status of c-Maf has a stronger regulatory effect on IL-21 than the level of c-Maf expression, through an epigenetic mechanism. These findings provide new insights into how SUMOylation modulates the pathogenesis of autoimmune diabetes in a T cell–restricted manner and on the basis of a single transcription factor.


Chao-Yuan Hsu, Li-Tzu Yeh, Shin-Huei Fu, Ming-Wei Chien, Yu-Wen Liu, Shi-Chuen Miaw, Deh-Ming Chang, Huey-Kang Sytwu


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