Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that affects the joints and other organs. Pulmonary complications contribute significantly to rheumatoid arthritis mortality. Retinoic acid and its synthetic compound AM80 play roles in immunoregulation but their effect on mucosal autoimmunity remains largely unknown. T follicular helper (Tfh) and Th17 cells are known to promote inflammation and autoantibody production. Using the K/BxN autoimmune arthritis model, we elucidate a novel mechanism whereby oral AM80 administration suppressed lung mucosa-associated Tfh and autoantibody responses by increasing the guthoming a4b7 integrin expression on Tfh cells. This diverted Tfh cells from systemic (non-gut) inflamed sites such as the lung into the gut-associated lymphoid tissues, Peyer's patches, and thus reduced the systemic autoantibodies. AM80 also inhibited the lung Th17 response. AM80's effect in the lungs was readily applied to the joints as AM80 also inhibited Tfh and Th17 responses in the spleen, the major autoantibody producing site known to correlate with K/BxN arthritis severity. Finally, we used anti-b7 treatment as an alternative approach, demonstrating that manipulating T cell migration between the gut and systemic sites alters the systemic disease outcome. The b7 blockade prevented both Tfh and Th17 cells from entering the non-immunopathogenic site, the gut, and retained these Teffector cells in the systemic sites, leading to augmented arthritis. These data suggest a dual beneficial effect of AM80, targeting both Tfh and Th17 cells, and warrant strict safety monitoring of gut-homing perturbing agents used in treating intestinal inflammation.
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