Follicular helper T cells (Tfh) have been well documented to play a critical role in autoimmunity, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), by helping B cells. In this study, high salt (sodium chloride, NaCl), under physiological conditions, was demonstrated to increase the differentiation of Tfh. A high-salt diet markedly increased lupus features in MRL/lpr mice. The mechanism is NaCl-induced DNA demethylation via the recruitment of the hydroxytransferase Ten-Eleven Translocation 2 (TET2). Gene silencing of TET2 obviously diminished NaCl-induced Tfh cell polarization in vitro. In addition, the gene expression of sh2d1a, map3k1, spn and stat5b was enhanced after NaCl treatment, consistent with the findings in lupus CD4 + T cells. However, only spn was directly regulated by TET2, and spn was not the sole target for NaCl. Our findings not only explain the epigenetic mechanisms of high-salt induced autoimmunity but also provide an attractive molecular target for intervention strategies of patients.
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