Lack of Ikaros cripples expression of Foxo1 and its targets in naive T cells.

PMID 28670688


Ikaros is a transcription factor that regulates lymphocyte development from the level of the haematopoietic stem cell. Lack of Ikaros reduces the ability of progenitor cells to commit to the T-cell lineage, resulting in reduced numbers of early thymic T-cell progenitors and mature T cells. Mature CD4 T cells that lack Ikaros have defects in proliferation, T helper cell differentiation, cytokine expression and the ability to become anergic. A role for Ikaros in the naive T cell has not yet been identified. The receptors interleukin-7 receptor α (IL-7Rα) and l-selectin are important for ensuring survival and proper homing of naive T cells, respectively. Here we show that lack of Ikaros leads to reduced expression of these receptors in naive T cells, which impacts their ability to home and survive in response to IL-7. We define the mechanism underlying this phenotype as a requirement for Ikaros in maintenance of expression of Foxo1, a transcriptional regulator that is required for their expression. We also demonstrate that CD4 T cells lacking Ikaros are significantly crippled in their ability to become induced regulatory T cells, a phenotype also linked to reduced Foxo1 expression. Finally, we show that restoring Ikaros function to Ikaros-deficient CD4 T cells increases levels of Foxo1 message. Together, these studies define, for the first time, a role for Ikaros in naive T cells and establish it as the first transcriptional regulator required for maintaining levels of Foxo1 gene expression in these cells.