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Int Immunol. 2003 Dec;15(12):1495-504.

Transforming growth factor-beta inhibits human antigen-specific CD4+ T cell proliferation without modulating the cytokine response.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology/Allergology, University Medical Center, PO Box 85.500, 3508 GA Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta has been demonstrated to play a key role in the regulation of the immune response, mainly by its suppressive function towards cells of the immune system. In humans, the effect of TGF-beta on antigen-specific established memory T cells has not been investigated yet. In this study antigen-specific CD4(+) T cell clones (TCC) were used to determine the effect of TGF-beta on antigen-specific proliferation, the activation status of the T cells and their cytokine production. This study demonstrates that TGF-beta is an adequate suppressor of antigen-specific T cell proliferation, by reducing the cell-cycle rate rather than induction of apoptosis. Addition of TGF-beta resulted in increased CD69 expression and decreased CD25 expression on T cells, indicating that TGF-beta is able to modulate the activation status of in vivo differentiated T cells. On the contrary, the antigen-specific cytokine production was not affected by TGF-beta. Although TGF-beta was suppressive towards the majority of the T cells, insensitivity of a few TCC towards TGF-beta was also observed. This could not be correlated to differential expression of TGF-beta signaling molecules such as Smad3, Smad7, SARA (Smad anchor for receptor activation) and Hgs (hepatocyte growth factor-regulated tyrosine kinase substrate). In summary, TGF-beta has a pronounced inhibitory effect on antigen-specific T cell proliferation without modulating their cytokine production.

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