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J Exp Med. 2009 Nov 23;206(12):2701-15. doi: 10.1084/jem.20090596. Epub 2009 Nov 16.

Transcription factors RUNX1 and RUNX3 in the induction and suppressive function of Foxp3+ inducible regulatory T cells.

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  • 1Swiss Institute of Allergy and Asthma Research Davos, University of Zurich, CH-7270 Davos-Platz, Switzerland.


Forkhead box P3 (FOXP3)(+)CD4(+)CD25(+) inducible regulatory T (iT reg) cells play an important role in immune tolerance and homeostasis. In this study, we show that the transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) induces the expression of the Runt-related transcription factors RUNX1 and RUNX3 in CD4(+) T cells. This induction seems to be a prerequisite for the binding of RUNX1 and RUNX3 to three putative RUNX binding sites in the FOXP3 promoter. Inactivation of the gene encoding RUNX cofactor core-binding factor-beta (CBFbeta) in mice and small interfering RNA (siRNA)-mediated suppression of RUNX1 and RUNX3 in human T cells resulted in reduced expression of Foxp3. The in vivo conversion of naive CD4(+) T cells into Foxp3(+) iT reg cells was significantly decreased in adoptively transferred Cbfb(F/F) CD4-cre naive T cells into Rag2(-/-) mice. Both RUNX1 and RUNX3 siRNA silenced human T reg cells and Cbfb(F/F) CD4-cre mouse T reg cells showed diminished suppressive function in vitro. Circulating human CD4(+) CD25(high) CD127(-) T reg cells significantly expressed higher levels of RUNX3, FOXP3, and TGF-beta mRNA compared with CD4(+)CD25(-) cells. Furthermore, FOXP3 and RUNX3 were colocalized in human tonsil T reg cells. These data demonstrate Runx transcription factors as a molecular link in TGF-beta-induced Foxp3 expression in iT reg cell differentiation and function.

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