CD70 is a tumor necrosis factor (TNF) superfamily member expressed by activated T cells, B cells, dendritic cells, NK cells and mature macrophages. It interacts with CD27, a TNF receptor family member on T cells that regulates T cell activation, proliferation and survival. Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is caused by T cell mediated beta cell destruction, however, T1D-prone NOD mice developed accelerated disease in the absence of CD70. This was associated with altered proportions of double negative vs. double positive thymocytes in CD70 knockout mice, indicating that CD70 modulates global thymopoiesis. Also affected, but in opposing directions, was the development of regulatory T cells (Treg) and natural killer T (NKT) cells, two immunoregulatory lymphocyte subsets that are functionally and numerically deficient in NOD mice. Tregs frequencies were reduced by 23% and 32% in CD70 heterozygous (CD70-/+) and homozygous (CD70-/-) knockout mice. In contrast, NKT cell frequencies were respectively increased by 48% and 61% in CD70-/+ and CD70-/- mice compared to standard NOD mice. The higher level of NKT cells in CD70 knockout mice was unexpectedly associated with reduced levels of thymic CD1d, a molecule that is required for NKT cell development. Collectively, our results show that CD70 controls the development of several T cell populations that are known to modulate T1D development in NOD mice and that, in the absence of CD70, T1D is exacerbated. These finding may facilitate the development of clinical therapeutics aimed at enhancing the stimulatory function of CD70 as a way to suppress disease.
C. Ye: None. J. Driver: None. M.V. Wiles: None. D. Serreze: None.