The transcription factor TCF-1 is essential for the development and function of regulatory T (Treg) cells; however, its function is poorly understood. Here, we show that TCF-1 primarily suppresses transcription of genes that are co-bound by Foxp3. Single-cell RNA-sequencing analysis identified effector memory T cells and central memory Treg cells with differential expression of Klf2 and memory and activation markers. TCF-1 deficiency did not change the core Treg cell transcriptional signature, but promoted alternative signaling pathways whereby Treg cells became activated and gained gut-homing properties and characteristics of the TH17 subset of helper T cells. TCF-1-deficient Treg cells strongly suppressed T cell proliferation and cytotoxicity, but were compromised in controlling CD4+ T cell polarization and inflammation. In mice with polyposis, Treg cell–specific TCF-1 deficiency promoted tumor growth. Consistently, tumor-infiltrating Treg cells of patients with colorectal cancer showed lower TCF-1 expression and increased TH17 expression signatures compared to adjacent normal tissue and circulating T cells. Thus, Treg cell–specific TCF-1 expression differentially regulates TH17-mediated inflammation and T cell cytotoxicity, and can determine colorectal cancer outcome.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy