A diverse suite of effector immune responses provide protection against various pathogens. However, the array of effector responses must be immunologically regulated to limit pathogen- and immune-associated damage. CD4+Foxp3+ regulatory T cells (Treg) calibrate immune responses; however, how Treg cells adapt to control different effector responses is unclear. To investigate the molecular mechanism of Treg diversity we used whole genome expression profiling and next generation small RNA sequencing of Treg cells isolated from type-1 or type-2 inflamed tissue following Leishmania major or Schistosoma mansoni infection, respectively. In-silico analyses identified two miRNA “regulatory hubs” miR-10a and miR-182 as critical miRNAs in Th1- or Th2-associated Treg cells, respectively. Functionally and mechanistically, in-vitro and in-vivo systems identified that an IL-12/IFNγ axis regulated miR-10a and its putative transcription factor, Creb. Importantly, reduced miR-10a in Th1-associated Treg cells was critical for Treg function and controlled a suite of genes preventing IFNγ production. In contrast, IL-4 regulated miR-182 and cMaf in Th2-associed Treg cells, which mitigated IL-2 secretion, in part through repression of IL2-promoting genes. Together, this study indicates that CD4+Foxp3+ cells can be shaped by local environmental factors, which orchestrate distinct miRNA pathways preserving Treg stability and suppressor function.
The diversity of pathogens that the immune system encounters are controlled by a diverse suite of immunological effector responses. Preserving a well-controlled protective immune response is essential. Too vigorous an effector response can be as damaging as too little. Regulatory T cells (Treg) calibrate immune responses; however, how Treg cells adapt to control the diverse suite of effector responses is unclear. In this study we investigated the molecular identity of regulatory T cells that control distinct effector immune responses against two discrete pathogens, an intracellular parasitic protozoa, Leishmania major, and an extracellular helminth parasite, Schitsosoma mansoni. The two Treg populations studied were phenotypically and functionally different. We identified molecular pathways that influence this diversity and more specifically, we identified that two miRNAs (miR-182 and miR-10a) act as “regulatory hubs” critically controlling distinct properties within each Treg population. This is the first study identifying the upstream molecular pathways controlling Treg cell specialization and provides a new platform of Treg cell manipulation to fine-tune their function.