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J Immunol. 2003 Oct 1;171(7):3435-41.

Essential role for STAT5 signaling in CD25+CD4+ regulatory T cell homeostasis and the maintenance of self-tolerance.

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  • 1Center for Cancer Research and Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


A population of CD25(+)CD4(+) regulatory T cells (T regs) functions to maintain immunological self tolerance by inhibiting autoreactive T cell responses. CD25(+)CD4(+) T regs are present in low, but steady, numbers in the peripheral lymphoid tissues of healthy mice. Recent studies have shown that IL-2 is an essential growth factor for these cells. How this cytokine functions to regulate CD25(+)CD4(+) T reg homeostasis and prevent autoimmune disease remains unknown. In conventional CD4(+) T cells, IL-2 triggers signaling pathways that promote proliferation and survival by activating the STAT5 transcription factor and by increasing the expression of the antiapoptotic protein, Bcl-2. We show here that bcl-2 deficiency does not affect CD25(+)CD4(+) T reg homeostasis, and that ectopic expression of this molecule fails to rescue CD25(+)CD4(+) T reg numbers or to prevent the development of autoimmunity in IL-2-deficient mice. Furthermore, transient activation of STAT5 is sufficient to increase CD25(+)CD4(+) T reg numbers in IL-2-deficient mice. Our study uncovers an essential role for STAT5 in maintaining CD25(+)CD4(+) T reg homeostasis and self-tolerance.

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