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Jain, N;Miu, B;Jiang, JK;McKinstry, KK;Prince, A;Swain, SL;Greiner, DL;Thomas, CJ;Sanderson, MJ;Berg, LJ;Kang, J;
Activation of self-reactive T cells and their trafficking to target tissues leads to autoimmune organ destruction. Mice lacking the co-inhibitory receptor cytotoxic T lymphocyte antigen-4 (CTLA-4) develop fatal autoimmunity characterized by lymphocytic infiltration into nonlymphoid tissues. Here, we demonstrate that the CD28 co-stimulatory pathway regulates the trafficking of self-reactive Ctla4(-/-) T cells to tissues. Concurrent ablation of the CD28-activated Tec family kinase ITK does not block spontaneous T cell activation but instead causes self-reactive Ctla4(-/-) T cells to accumulate in secondary lymphoid organs. Despite excessive spontaneous T cell activation and proliferation in lymphoid organs, Itk(-/-); Ctla4(-/-) mice are otherwise healthy, mount antiviral immune responses and exhibit a long lifespan. We propose that ITK specifically licenses autoreactive T cells to enter tissues to mount destructive immune responses. Notably, ITK inhibitors mimic the null mutant phenotype and also prevent pancreatic islet infiltration by diabetogenic T cells in mouse models of type 1 diabetes, highlighting their potential utility for the treatment of human autoimmune disorders.