Estrogen-related receptor γ (Esrrg) is a murine lupus susceptibility gene associated with T cell activation. Here, we report that Esrrg controls Tregs through mitochondria homeostasis. Esrrg deficiency impaired the maintenance and function of Tregs, leading to global T cell activation and autoimmunity in aged mice. Further, Esrrg-deficient Tregs presented an impaired differentiation into follicular Tregs that enhanced follicular helper T cells’ responses. Mechanistically, Esrrg-deficient Tregs presented with dysregulated mitochondria with decreased oxygen consumption as well as ATP and NAD+ production. In addition, Esrrg-deficient Tregs exhibited decreased phosphatidylinositol and TGF-β signaling pathways and increased mTOR complex 1 activation. We found that the expression of human ESRRG, which is high in Tregs, was lower in CD4+ T cells from patients with lupus than in healthy controls. Finally, knocking down ESRRG in Jurkat T cells decreased their metabolism. Together, our results reveal a critical role of Esrrg in the maintenance and metabolism of Tregs, which may provide a genetic link between lupus pathogenesis and mitochondrial dysfunction in T cells.
Wei Li, Minghao Gong, Yuk Pheel Park, Ahmed S. Elshikha, Seung-Chul Choi, Josephine Brown, Nathalie Kanda, Wen-I Yeh, Leeana Peters, Anton A. Titov, Xiangyu Teng, Todd M. Brusko, Laurence Morel