Helper T (Th) and regulatory T (Treg) cell differentiation programs promote the eradication of pathogens, while minimizing adverse immune reactions. Here, we found that Nr4a family of nuclear receptors supports Treg cell induction and represses Th1 and Th2 cell differentiation from naive CD4+ T cells. Nr4a factors are transiently induced in CD4+ T cells immediately after antigen stimulation, thereby mediating epigenetic changes. In differentiating Treg cells, Nr4a factors mainly upregulated the early responsive genes in the Treg cell-specifying gene set, either directly or in cooperation with Ets family transcription factors. In contrast, Nr4a factors repressed AP-1 activity by interrupting a positive feedback loop for Batf factor expression, thus suppressing Th2 cell-associated genes. In an allergic airway inflammation model, Nr4a factors suppressed the pathogenesis, mediating oral tolerance. Lastly, pharmacological activation of an engineered Nr4a molecule prevented allergic airway inflammation, indicating that Nr4a factors may be novel therapeutic targets for inflammatory diseases.
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