The food colorant Red 40 is an environmental risk factor for colitis development in mice with increased expression of interleukin (IL)-23. This immune response is mediated by CD4+ T cells, but mechanistic insights into how these CD4+ T cells trigger and perpetuate colitis have remained elusive. Here, using single-cell transcriptomic analysis, we found that several CD4+ T-cell subsets are present in the intestines of colitic mice, including an interferon (IFN)-γ-producing subset. In vivo challenge of primed mice with Red 40 promoted rapid activation of CD4+ T cells and caused marked intestinal epithelial cell (IEC) apoptosis that was attenuated by depletion of CD4+ cells and blockade of IFN-γ. Ex vivo experiments showed that intestinal CD4+ T cells from colitic mice directly promoted apoptosis of IECs and intestinal enteroids. CD4+ T cell-mediated cytotoxicity was contact-dependent and required FasL, which promoted caspase-dependent cell death in target IECs. Genetic ablation of IFN-γ constrained IL-23- and Red 40-induced colitis development, and blockade of IFN-γ inhibited epithelial cell death in vivo. These results advance the understanding of the mechanisms regulating colitis development caused by IL-23 and food colorants and identify IFN-γ+ cytotoxic CD4+ T cells as a new potential therapeutic target for colitis.
- Allura Red; IL23; Cytotoxic CD4 T cells; CD4 CTL; Inflammation; Epithelium damage; Colitis
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy
- Infectious Diseases