Memory B cells (MBCs) and plasma cells (PCs) constitute the two cellular outputs of germinal center (GC) responses that together facilitate long-term humoral immunity. Although expression of the transcription factor BLIMP-1 identifies cells undergoing PC differentiation, no such marker exists for cells committed to the MBC lineage. Here, we report that the chemokine receptor CCR6 uniquely marks MBC precursors in both mouse and human GCs. CCR6+ GC B cells were highly enriched within the GC light zone (LZ), were the most quiescent of all GC B cells, exhibited a cell-surface phenotype and gene expression signature indicative of an MBC transition, and possessed the augmented response characteristics of MBCs. MBC precursors within the GC LZ predominantly possessed a low affinity for antigen but also included cells from within the high-affinity pool. These data indicate a fundamental dichotomy between the processes that drive MBC and PC differentiation during GC responses.
How tissue-resident macrophages (TRM) impact adaptive immune responses remains poorly understood. We report novel mechanisms by which TRMs regulate T cell activities at tissue sites. These mechanisms are mediated by the complement receptor of immunoglobulin family (CRIg). Using animal models for autoimmune type 1 diabetes (T1D), we found that CRIg+ TRMs formed a protective barrier surrounding pancreatic islets. Genetic ablation of CRIg exacerbated islet inflammation and local T cell activation. CRIg exhibited a dual function of attenuating early T cell activation and promoting the differentiation of Foxp3+ regulatory (Treg) cells. More importantly, CRIg stabilized the expression of Foxp3 in Treg cells, by enhancing their responsiveness to interleukin-2. The expression of CRIg in TRMs was postnatally regulated by gut microbial signals and metabolites. Thus, environmental cues instruct TRMs to express CRIg, which functions as an immune checkpoint molecule to regulate adaptive immunity and promote immune tolerance.
Foxp3 controls the development and function of regulatory T (Treg) cells, but it remains elusive how Foxp3 functions in vivo. Here, we established mouse models harboring three unique missense Foxp3 mutations that were identified in patients with the autoimmune disease IPEX. The I363V and R397W mutations were loss-of-function mutations, causing multi-organ inflammation by globally compromising Treg cell physiology. By contrast, the A384T mutation induced a distinctive tissue-restricted inflammation by specifically impairing the ability of Treg cells to compete with pathogenic T cells in certain non-lymphoid tissues. Mechanistically, repressed BATF expression contributed to these A384T effects. At the molecular level, the A384T mutation altered Foxp3 interactions with its specific target genes including Batf by broadening its DNA-binding specificity. Our findings identify BATF as a critical regulator of tissue Treg cells and suggest that sequence-specific perturbations of Foxp3-DNA interactions can influence specific facets of Treg cell physiology and the immunopathologies they regulate.