Regulation of T cell responses by ionic salt signals.
T helper cell responses are tailored to their respective antigens and adapted to their specific tissue microenvironment. While a great proportion of T cells acquire a resident identity, a significant proportion of T cells continue circulating, thus encountering changing microenvironmental signals during immune surveillance. One signal, which has previously been largely overlooked, is sodium chloride. It has been proposed to have potent effects on T cell responses in the context of autoimmune, allergic and infectious tissue inflammation in mouse models and humans. Sodium chloride is stringently regulated in the blood by the kidneys but displays differential deposition patterns in peripheral tissues. Sodium chloride accumulation might furthermore be regulated by dietary intake and thus by intentional behavior. Together, these results make sodium chloride an interesting but still controversial signal for immune modulation. Its downstream cellular activities represent a potential therapeutic target given its effects on T cell cytokine production. In this review article, we provide an overview and critical evaluation of the impact of this ionic signal on T helper cell polarization and T helper cell effector functions. In addition, the impact of sodium chloride from the tissue microenvironment is assessed for human health and disease and for its therapeutic potential.