DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2318710120 ISSN: 0027-8424

A distinct human cell type expressing MHCII and RORγt with dual characteristics of dendritic cells and type 3 innate lymphoid cells

Alina Ulezko Antonova, Silvia Lonardi, Matilde Monti, Francesco Missale, Changxu Fan, Matthew L. Coates, Mattia Bugatti, Natalia Jaeger, Patrick Fernandes Rodrigues, Simone Brioschi, Tihana Trsan, José L. Fachi, Khai M. Nguyen, Ryan M. Nunley, Daniele Moratto, Stefania Zini, Lingjia Kong, Jacques Deguine, Mark E. Peeples, Ramnik J. Xavier, Menna R. Clatworthy, Ting Wang, Marina Cella, William Vermi, Marco Colonna
  • Multidisciplinary

Recent studies have characterized various mouse antigen-presenting cells (APCs) expressing the lymphoid-lineage transcription factor RORγt (Retinoid-related orphan receptor gamma t), which exhibit distinct phenotypic features and are implicated in the induction of peripheral regulatory T cells (Tregs) and immune tolerance to microbiota and self-antigens. These APCs encompass Janus cells and Thetis cell subsets, some of which express the AutoImmune REgulator (AIRE). RORγt + MHCII + type 3 innate lymphoid cells (ILC3) have also been implicated in the instruction of microbiota-specific Tregs. While RORγt + APCs have been actively investigated in mice, the identity and function of these cell subsets in humans remain elusive. Herein, we identify a rare subset of RORγt + cells with dendritic cell (DC) features through integrated single-cell RNA sequencing and single-cell ATAC sequencing. These cells, which we term RORγt + DC-like cells (R-DC-like), exhibit DC morphology, express the MHC class II machinery, and are distinct from all previously reported DC and ILC3 subsets, but share transcriptional and epigenetic similarities with DC2 and ILC3. We have developed procedures to isolate and expand them in vitro, enabling their functional characterization. R-DC-like cells proliferate in vitro, continue to express RORγt, and differentiate into CD1c + DC2-like cells. They stimulate the proliferation of allogeneic T cells. The identification of human R-DC-like cells with proliferative potential and plasticity toward CD1c + DC2-like cells will prompt further investigation into their impact on immune homeostasis, inflammation, and autoimmunity.

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