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Congratulations to Clint Piper, MSTP Student from Dr. William Drobyski's Lab on his Publication in Blood Journal

Pathogenic Bhlhe40+ GM-CSF+ CD4+ T cells promote indirect alloantigen presentation in the GI tract during GVHD

Key Points

  • Bhlhe40 is a key transcription factor that regulates CD4+ T cell-mediated GM-CSF production and pathological damage in the colon in GVHD
  • CD4+ T-cell–derived GM-CSF production links adaptive to innate immunity by promoting indirect alloantigen presentation in the GI tract


Gastrointestinal (GI) tract involvement is the major cause of morbidity and mortality in acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), and pathological damage is largely attributable to inflammatory cytokine production. Recently, granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) has been identified as a cytokine that mediates inflammation in the GI tract, but the transcriptional program that governs GM-CSF production and the mechanism by which GM-CSF links adaptive to innate immunity within this tissue site have not been defined. In the current study, we identified Bhlhe40 as a key transcriptional regulator that governs GM-CSF production by CD4+ T cells and mediates pathological damage in the GI tract during GVHD. In addition, we observed that GM-CSF was not regulated by either interleukin 6 (IL-6) or IL-23, which are both potent inducers of GVHD-induced colonic pathology, indicating that GM-CSF constitutes a nonredundant inflammatory pathway in the GI tract. Mechanistically, GM-CSF had no adverse effect on regulatory T-cell reconstitution, but linked adaptive to innate immunity by enhancing the activation of donor-derived dendritic cells in the colon and subsequent accumulation of these cells in the mLNs. In addition, GM-CSF promoted indirect alloantigen presentation, resulting in the accumulation of donor-derived T cells with a proinflammatory cytokine phenotype in the colon. Thus, Bhlhe40+ GM-CSF+ CD4+ T cells constitute a colitogenic T-cell population that promotes indirect alloantigen presentation and pathological damage within the GI tract, positioning GM-CSF as a key regulator of GVHD in the colon and a potential therapeutic target for amelioration of this disease.

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