Type 1 Diabetes in STAT Protein Family Mutations: Regulating the Th17/Treg Equilibrium and Beyond

Improvements in the immunological, molecular, and genetic technologies such as next-generation sequencing have led to an exponential increase in the number of monogenic immune dysregulatory syndromes diagnosed, where type 1 diabetes (T1D) forms part of the autoimmune manifestations. Here, we reviewed the mutations in the signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) protein family, namely gain-of-function (GOF) mutations in STAT1 and STAT3 as well as STAT5b deficiency, that show strong association to T1D susceptibility. The equilibrium of T-helper 17 (Th17) and regulatory T cells (Tregs) is often found altered in patients affected by STAT GOF mutations. While the increased number of Th17 cells and the concomitant decrease in Treg cells may explain T1D in STAT3 GOF patients, the reduced number of Th17 cells found in those carrying STAT1 GOF mutations added a new level of complexity on the exact role of Th17 in the pathogenesis of T1D. Here, we describe the possible mechanisms through which STAT3 and STAT1 GOF mutations may perturb the fate and function of Th17 and Tregs and explore how this may lead to the development of T1D. We propose that the study of monogenic diseases, and in particular STAT mutations, may not only improve our understanding of the function of the human immune system but also shed light onto the pathogenic mechanisms of T1D and the genetic variants that confer predisposition to the disease.