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J Immunol. 2007 Jan 1;178(1):179-85.

Th3 cells in peripheral tolerance. I. Induction of Foxp3-positive regulatory T cells by Th3 cells derived from TGF-beta T cell-transgenic mice.

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  • 1Center for Neurologic Diseases, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


TGF-beta has been shown to be critical in the generation of CD4(+)CD25(+)Foxp3(+) regulatory T cells (Tregs). Because Th3 cells produce large amounts of TGF-beta, we asked whether induction of Th3 cells in the periphery was a mechanism by which CD4(+)CD25(+) Tregs were induced in the peripheral immune compartment. To address this issue, we generated a TGF-beta1-transgenic (Tg) mouse in which TGF-beta is linked to the IL-2 promoter and T cells transiently overexpress TGF-beta upon TCR stimulation but produce little or no IL-2, IL-4, IL-10, IL-13, or IFN-gamma. Naive TGF-beta-Tg mice are phenotypically normal with comparable numbers of lymphocytes and thymic-derived Tregs. We found that repeated antigenic stimulation of pathogenic myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG)-specific CD4(+)CD25(-) T cells from TGF-beta Tg mice crossed to MOG TCR-Tg mice induced Foxp3 expression in both CD25(+) and CD25(-) populations. Both CD25 subsets were anergic and had potent suppressive properties in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, adoptive transfer of these induced regulatory CD25(+/-) T cells suppressed experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis when administrated before disease induction or during ongoing experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. The suppressive effect of TGF-beta on T cell responses was due to the induction of Tregs and not to the direct inhibition of cell proliferation. The differentiation of Th3 cells in vitro was TGF-beta dependent as anti-TGF-beta abrogated their development. Thus, Ag-specific TGF-beta-producing Th3 cells play a crucial role in inducing and maintaining peripheral tolerance by driving the differentiation of Ag-specific Foxp3(+) regulatory cells in the periphery.

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