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Blood. 2002 May 1;99(9):3326-34.

Heavy chain ferritin activates regulatory T cells by induction of changes in dendritic cells.

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  • 1Deparment of Oncology and Immunology, Newcastle Mater Hospital, Australia.


Heavy chain ferritin (H-ferritin) is a component of the iron-binding protein, ferritin. We have previously shown that H-ferritin inhibits anti-CD3-stimulated lymphocyte proliferation and that this was due to increased production of interleukin-10 (IL-10). In the present study we have shown that induction of IL-10 production was due to effects of H-ferritin on adherent antigen-presenting cells (APCs) in blood and monocyte-derived dendritic cells (MoDCs). IL-10 was produced by a subpopulation of CD4 T cells, which expressed the CD25 component of the IL-2 receptor and the CTLA-4 receptor characteristic of regulatory T cells. The changes induced in MoDCs were compared with those induced by CD40L and their significance tested by inhibition with monoclonal antibodies. These studies indicated that H-ferritin induced relatively greater expression of CD86 and B7-H1 on MoDCs and that monoclonal antibodies against their receptors, CTLA-4 and programmed death receptor-1 (PD-1), inhibited IL-10 production from the regulatory T cells. H-ferritin did not appear to induce direct production of the cytokines IL-2, IL-4, IL-6, IL-10, IL-12, or interferon-gamma from the DCs. These results are consistent with the thesis that H-ferritin induces B7-H1 and CD86 (B7-2) on APCs, which in turn induce IL-10 production from regulatory T cells. This is possibly one mechanism by which melanoma cells may induce changes in APCs in the vicinity of the tumor and result in suppression of immune responses by induction of regulatory T cells.

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