P2Rx7 deletion in T cells promotes autoimmune arthritis by unleashing the TFH cell response

Krysta M. Felix, Fei Teng, Nicholas A. Bates, Heqing Ma, Ivan A. Jaimez, Kiah C. Sleiman, Nhan L. Tran, Hsin Jung Joyce Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that affects ~1% of the world's population. B cells and autoantibodies play an important role in the pathogenesis of RA. The P2RX7 receptor is an ATP-gated cation channel and its activation results in the release of pro-inflammatory molecules. Thus, antagonists of P2RX7 have been considered to have potential as novel anti-inflammatory therapies. Although originally identified for its role in innate immunity, P2RX7 has recently been found to negatively control Peyer's patches (PP) T follicular helper cells (Tfh), which specialize in helping B cells, under homeostatic conditions. We have previously demonstrated that PP Tfh cells are required for the augmentation of autoimmune arthritis mediated by gut commensal segmented filamentous bacteria (SFB). Thus, we hypothesized that P2RX7 is required to control autoimmune disease by keeping the Tfh cell response in check. To test our hypothesis, we analyzed the impact of P2RX7 deficiency in vivo using both the original K/BxN autoimmune arthritis model and T cell transfers in the K/BxN system. We also examined the impact of P2RX7 ablation on autoimmune development in the presence of the gut microbiota SFB. Our data illustrate that contrary to exerting an anti-inflammatory effect, P2RX7 deficiency actually enhances autoimmune arthritis. Interestingly, SFB colonization can negate the difference in disease severity between WT and P2RX7-deficient mice. We further demonstrated that P2RX7 ablation in the absence of SFB caused reduced apoptotic Tfh cells and enhanced the Tfh response, leading to an increase in autoantibody production. It has been shown that activation of TIGIT, a well-known T cell exhaustion marker, up-regulates anti-apoptotic molecules and promotes T cell survival. We demonstrated that the reduced apoptotic phenotype of P2rx7−/− Tfh cells is associated with their increased expression of TIGIT. This suggested that while P2RX7 was regulating the Tfh population by promoting cell death, TIGIT may have been opposing P2RX7 by inhibiting cell death. Together, these results demonstrated that systemic administration of general P2RX7 antagonists may have detrimental effects in autoimmune therapies, especially in Tfh cell-dependent autoimmune diseases, and cell-specific targeting of P2RX7 should be considered in order to achieve efficacy for P2RX7-related therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number411
JournalFrontiers in immunology
Issue numberMAR
StatePublished - 2019


  • Apoptosis
  • Autoimmune
  • Microbiota
  • P2RX7

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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