Lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs) express MHC class II (MHC-II) upon IFN-γ stimulation, yet recent evidence suggests that LECs cannot activate naive or memory CD4+ T cells. In this article, we show that IFN-γ–activated human dermal LECs can robustly reactivate allogeneic human memory CD4+ T cells (hCD4+ TMs), but only when TGF-β signaling is inhibited. We found that in addition to upregulating MHC-II, IFN-γ also induces LECs to upregulate glycoprotein A repetitions predominant, which anchors latent TGF-β to the membrane and potentially inhibits T cell activation. Indeed, hCD4+ TM proliferation was substantially increased when LEC-CD4+ TM cultures were treated with a TGF-β receptor type 1 inhibitor or when glycoprotein A repetitions predominant expression was silenced in LECs. Reactivated hCD4+ TMs were characterized by their proliferation, CD25 expression, and cytokine secretion. CD4+ TM reactivation was dependent on LEC expression of MHC-II, confirming direct TCR engagement. Although CD80 and CD86 were not detected on LECs, the costimulatory molecules OX40L and ICOSL were upregulated upon cytokine stimulation; however, blocking these did not affect CD4+ TM reactivation by LECs. Finally, we found that human dermal LECs also supported the maintenance of Foxp3-expressing hCD4+ TMs independently of IFN-γ–induced MHC-II. Together, these results demonstrate a role for LECs in directly modulating CD4+ TM reactivation under inflammatory conditions and point to LEC-expressed TGF-β as a negative regulator of this activation.

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