The small intestine contains CD4+CD8αα+ double-positive intraepithelial T lymphocytes (DP IELs), which originate from intestinal CD4+ T cells through downregulation of the transcription factor ThPOK and have regulatory functions. DP IELs are absent in germ-free mice, suggesting that their differentiation depends on microbial factors. We found that DP IEL numbers in mice varied in different vivaria, correlating with the presence of Lactobacillus reuteri. This species induced DP IELs in germ-free mice and conventionally raised mice lacking these cells. L. reuteri did not shape DP–IEL–TCR repertoire, but generated indole derivatives of tryptophan that activated the aryl-hydrocarbon receptor in CD4+ T cells, allowing ThPOK downregulation and differentiation into DP IELs. Thus, L. reuteri together with a tryptophan-rich diet can reprogram intraepithelial CD4+ T cells into immunoregulatory T cells.
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