Interleukin (IL)-17-producing T helper (Th17) cells are crucial for host defense against extracellular microbes and pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases. Here we show that the AP-1 transcription factor JunB is required for Th17 cell development. Junb-deficient CD4+ T cells are able to develop in vitro into various helper T subsets except Th17. The RNA-seq transcriptome analysis reveals that JunB is crucial for the Th17-specific gene expression program. Junb-deficient mice are completely resistant to experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, a Th17-mediated inflammatory disease, and naive T helper cells from such mice fail to differentiate into Th17 cells. JunB appears to activate Th17 signature genes by forming a heterodimer with BATF, another AP-1 factor essential for Th17 differentiation. The mechanism whereby JunB controls Th17 cell development likely involves activation of the genes for the Th17 lineage-specifying orphan receptors RORγt and RORα and reduced expression of Foxp3, a transcription factor known to antagonize RORγt function.
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