GLK-IKKβ signaling induces dimerization and translocation of the AhR-RORγt complex in IL-17A induction and autoimmune disease

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Science Advances  12 Sep 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 9, eaat5401
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat5401


Retinoic-acid-receptor-related orphan nuclear receptor γt (RORγt) controls the transcription of interleukin-17A (IL-17A), which plays critical roles in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases. Severity of several human autoimmune diseases is correlated with frequencies of germinal center kinase–like kinase (GLK) (also known as MAP4K3)–overexpressing T cells; however, the mechanism of GLK overexpression–induced autoimmunity remains unclear. We report the signal transduction converging on aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR)–RORγt interaction to activate transcription of the IL-17A gene in T cells. T cell–specific GLK transgenic mice spontaneously developed autoimmune diseases with selective induction of IL-17A in T cells. In GLK transgenic T cells, protein kinase Cθ (PKCθ) phosphorylated AhR at Ser36 and induced AhR nuclear translocation. AhR also interacted with RORγt and transported RORγt into the nucleus. IKKβ (inhibitor of nuclear factor κB kinase β)–mediated RORγt Ser489 phosphorylation induced the AhR-RORγt interaction. T cell receptor (TCR) signaling also induced the novel RORγt phosphorylation and subsequent AhR-RORγt interaction. Collectively, TCR signaling or GLK overexpression induces IL-17A transcription through the IKKβ-mediated RORγt phosphorylation and the AhR-RORγt interaction in T cells. Our findings suggest that inhibitors of GLK or the AhR-RORγt complex could be used as IL-17A–blocking agents for IL-17A–mediated autoimmune diseases.

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