Regulatory T (Treg) cells control self-tolerance, inflammatory responses and tissue homeostasis. In mature Treg cells, continued expression of FOXP3 maintains lineage identity, while T cell receptor (TCR) signaling and interleukin-2 (IL-2)/STAT5 activation support the suppressive effector function of Treg cells, but how these regulators synergize to control Treg cell homeostasis and function remains unclear. Here we show that TCR-activated posttranslational modification by O-linked N-Acetylglucosamine (O-GlcNAc) stabilizes FOXP3 and activates STAT5, thus integrating these critical signaling pathways. O-GlcNAc-deficient Treg cells develop normally but display modestly reduced FOXP3 expression, strongly impaired lineage stability and effector function, and ultimately fatal autoimmunity in mice. Moreover, deficiency in protein O-GlcNAcylation attenuates IL-2/STAT5 signaling, while overexpression of a constitutively active form of STAT5 partially ameliorates Treg cell dysfunction and systemic inflammation in O-GlcNAc deficient mice. Collectively, our data demonstrate that protein O-GlcNAcylation is essential for lineage stability and effector function in Treg cells.
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© 2019, The Author(s).