The ectonucleotidase CD39 functions as a checkpoint in purinergic signaling on effector T cells. By depleting eATP and initiating the generation of adenosine, it impairs memory cell development and contributes to T cell exhaustion, thereby causing defective tumor immunity and deficient T cell responses in older adults who have increased CD39 expression. Tuning enzymatic activity of CD39 and targeting the transcriptional regulation of ENTPD1 can be used to modulate purinergic signaling. Here, we describe that STAT6 phosphorylation downstream of IL-4 signaling represses CD39 expression on activated T cells by inducing a transcription factor network including GATA3, GFI1, and YY1. GATA3 suppresses ENTPD1 transcription through prevention of RUNX3 recruitment to the ENTPD1 promoter. Conversely, pharmacological STAT6 inhibition decreases T cell effector functions via increased CD39 expression, resulting in the defective signaling of P2X receptors by ATP and stimulation of A2A receptors by adenosine. Our studies suggest that inhibiting the STAT6 pathway to increase CD39 expression has the potential to treat autoimmune disease while stimulation of the pathway could improve T cell immunity.
Fengqin Fang, Wenqiang Cao, Yunmei Mu, Hirohisa Okuyama, Lingjie Li, Jingtao Qiu, Cornelia M. Weyand, Jörg J. Goronzy