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J Exp Med. 2007 Jan 22;204(1):57-63. Epub 2007 Jan 2.

Selective depletion of Foxp3+ regulatory T cells induces a scurfy-like disease.

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  • 1Institut für Medizinische Mikrobiologie, Immunologie und Hygiene, Technische Universität München, 81675 Munich, Germany.


The scurfy mutant mouse strain suffers from a fatal lymphoproliferative disease leading to early death within 3-4 wk of age. A frame-shift mutation of the forkhead box transcription factor Foxp3 has been identified as the molecular cause of this multiorgan autoimmune disease. Foxp3 is a central control element in the development and function of regulatory T cells (T reg cells), which are necessary for the maintenance of self-tolerance. However, it is unclear whether dysfunction or a lack of T reg cells is etiologically involved in scurfy pathogenesis and its human correlate, the IPEX syndrome. We describe the generation of bacterial artificial chromosome-transgenic mice termed "depletion of regulatory T cell" (DEREG) mice expressing a diphtheria toxin (DT) receptor-enhanced green fluorescent protein fusion protein under the control of the foxp3 gene locus, allowing selective and efficient depletion of Foxp3+ T reg cells by DT injection. Ablation of Foxp3+ T reg cells in newborn DEREG mice led to the development of scurfy-like symptoms with splenomegaly, lymphadenopathy, insulitis, and severe skin inflammation. Thus, these data provide experimental evidence that the absence of Foxp3+ T reg cells is indeed sufficient to induce a scurfy-like phenotype. Furthermore, DEREG mice will allow a more precise definition of the function of Foxp3+ T reg cells in immune reactions in vivo.

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