Inhibitory/repressor-receptors are upregulated significantly on activated T cells, and have been the molecules of attention as targets for inducing immune tolerance. Induction of effective antigen specific tolerance depends on concurrent engagement of the TCR and one or more of these inhibitory receptors. Here, we show, for the first time that dendritic cells (DCs) can be efficiently engineered to express multiple T cell inhibitory ligands, and enhanced engagement of T cell inhibitory receptors, upon antigen presentation, by these DCs can induce effective CD4+ T cell tolerance and suppress autoimmunity. Compared to control DCs, antigen presentation by DCs that ectopically express CTLA4, PD1 and BTLA selective ligands (B7.1wa, PD-L1, and HVEM-CRD1 respectively) individually (mono-ligand DCs) or in combination (multi-ligand DCs) causes an inhibition of CD4+ T cell proliferation and pro-inflammatory cytokine response, as well as increase in Foxp3+ Treg frequency and immune regulatory cytokine production. Administration of self-antigen (mouse thyroglobulin; mTg) loaded multi-ligand DCs caused hyporesponsiveness to mTg challenge, suppression of autoantibody production, and amelioration of experimental autoimmune thyroiditis. Overall, this study shows that engineered DC-directed enhanced concurrent activation of multiple T cell coinhibitory pathways is an effective way to induce self-antigen specific T cell tolerance to suppress ongoing autoimmunity.
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