Patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) present a high incidence of atherosclerosis, which contributes significantly to morbidity and mortality in this autoimmune disease. An impaired balance between regulatory (Treg) and follicular helper (Tfh) CD4+ T cells is shared by both diseases. However, whether there are common mechanisms of CD4+ T cell dysregulation between SLE and atherosclerosis remains unclear. Pre-B cell leukemia transcription factor 1 isoform d (Pbx1d) is a lupus susceptibility gene that regulates Tfh cell expansion and Treg cell homeostasis. Here, we investigated the role of T cells overexpressing Pbx1d in low-density lipoprotein receptor–deficient (Ldlr–/–) mice fed with a high-fat diet, an experimental model for atherosclerosis. Pbx1d-transgenic T cells exacerbated some phenotypes of atherosclerosis, which were associated with higher autoantibody production, increased Tfh cell frequency, and impaired Treg cell regulation, in Ldlr–/– mice as compared with control T cells. In addition, we showed that dyslipidemia and Pbx1d-transgenic expression independently impaired the differentiation and function of Treg cells in vitro, suggesting a gene/environment additive effect. Thus, our results suggest that the combination of Pbx1d expression in T cells and dyslipidemia exacerbates both atherosclerosis and autoimmunity, at least in part through a dysregulation of Treg cell homeostasis.
Wei Li, Ahmed S. Elshikha, Caleb Cornaby, Xiangyu Teng, Georges Abboud, Josephine Brown, Xueyang Zou, Leilani Zeumer-Spataro, Brian Robusto, Seung-Chul Choi, Kristianna Fredenburg, Amy Major, Laurence Morel