Methotrexate (MTX) is a standard, first-line therapy for rheumatoid arthritis (RA); however, its precise mechanisms of action other than antifolate activity are largely unknown. We performed DNA microarray analyses of CD4+ T cells in patients with RA before and after MTX treatment and found that TP63 was the most significantly downregulated gene after MTX treatment. TAp63, an isoform of TP63, was highly expressed in human IL-17–producing Th (Th17) cells and was suppressed by MTX in vitro. Murine TAp63 was expressed at high levels in Th cells and at lower levels in thymus-derived Treg cells. Importantly, TAp63 knockdown in murine Th17 cells ameliorated the adoptive transfer arthritis model. RNA-Seq analyses of human Th17 cells overexpressing TAp63 and those with TAp63 knockdown identified FOXP3 as a possible TAp63 target gene. TAp63 knockdown in CD4+ T cells cultured under Th17 conditions with low-dose IL-6 increased Foxp3 expression, suggesting that TAp63 balances Th17 cells and Treg cells. Mechanistically, TAp63 knockdown in murine induced Treg (iTreg) cells promoted hypomethylation of conserved noncoding sequence 2 (CNS2) of the Foxp3 gene and enhanced the suppressive function of iTreg cells. Reporter analyses revealed that TAp63 suppressed the activation of the Foxp3 CNS2 enhancer. Collectively, TAp63 suppresses Foxp3 expression and exacerbates autoimmune arthritis.
Kensuke Suga, Akira Suto, Shigeru Tanaka, Yutaka Sugawara, Takahiro Kageyama, Junichi Ishikawa, Yoshie Sanayama, Kei Ikeda, Shunsuke Furuta, Shin-Ichiro Kagami, Arifumi Iwata, Koichi Hirose, Kotaro Suzuki, Osamu Ohara, Hiroshi Nakajima