BET N-Terminal bromodomain inhibition selectively blocks Th17 cell differentiation and ameliorates colitis in mice

Kalung Cheung, Geming Lu, Rajal Sharma, Adam Vincek, Ruihua Zhang, Alexander N. Plotnikov, Fan Zhang, Qiang Zhang, Ying Ju, Yuan Hu, Li Zhao, Xinye Han, Jamel Meslamani, Feihong Xu, Anbalagan Jaganathan, Tong Shen, Hongfa Zhu, Elena Rusinova, Lei Zeng, Jiachi ZhouJianjun Yang, Liang Peng, Michael Ohlmeyer, Martin J. Walsh, David Y. Zhang, Huabao Xiong, Ming Ming Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


T-helper 17 (Th17) cells have important functions in adaptor immunity and have also been implicated in inflammatory disorders. The bromodomain and extraterminal domain (BET) family proteins regulate gene transcription during lineage-specific differentiation of naïve CD4+ T cells to produce mature T-helper cells. Inhibition of acetyl-lysine binding of the BET proteins by pan-BET bromodomain (BrD) inhibitors, such as JQ1, broadly affects differentiation of Th17, Th1, and Th2 cells that have distinct immune functions, thus limiting their therapeutic potential. Whether these BET proteins represent viable new epigenetic drug targets for inflammatory disorders has remained an unanswered question. In this study, we report that selective inhibition of the first bromodomain of BET proteins with our newly designed small molecule MS402 inhibits primarily Th17 cell differentiation with a little or almost no effect on Th1 or Th2 and Treg cells. MS402 preferentially renders Brd4 binding to Th17 signature gene loci over those of housekeeping genes and reduces Brd4 recruitment of p-TEFb to phosphorylate and activate RNA polymerase II for transcription elongation. We further show that MS402 prevents and ameliorates T-cell transfer-induced colitis in mice by blocking Th17 cell overdevelopment. Thus, selective pharmacological modulation of individual bromodomains likely represents a strategy for treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2952-2957
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number11
StatePublished - 14 Mar 2017


  • Brd4
  • Bromodomain
  • Chemical inhibitor
  • Gene transcription
  • Th17 cell differentiation


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