CDK inhibitors suppress Th17 and promote iTreg differentiation, and ameliorate experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis in mice

Th17 cells, which have been implicated in autoimmune diseases, require IL-6 and TGF-β for early differentiation. Several Smad-independent pathways including the JNK and the RhoA-ROCK pathways have been implicated in the induction of RORγt, the master regulator of Th17, however, molecular mechanisms underlying Smad-independent pathway remain largely unknown. To identify novel pathways involved in Th17 differentiation, we screened 285 chemical inhibitors for known signaling pathways. Among them, we found that Kenpaullone, a GSK3-β and CDK inhibitor, efficiently suppressed TGF-β-mediated RORγt induction and enhanced Foxp3 induction in primary T cells. Another CDK inhibitor, Roscovitine, but not other GSK3-β inhibitors, suppressed Th17 differentiation and enhanced iTreg development. Kenpaullone and Roscovitine suppressed experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), a typical Th17-mediated autoimmune disease model. These two compounds enhanced STAT5 phosphorylation and restored IL-2 production in the presence of TGF-β. These data suggest that CDK inhibitors modulate TGF-β-signaling pathways, which restore TGF-β-mediated suppression of IL-2 production, thereby modifying the Th17/iTreg balance.

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