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J Exp Med. 2002 Jul 15;196(2):237-46.

CD4(+)CD25(+) regulatory T cells can mediate suppressor function in the absence of transforming growth factor beta1 production and responsiveness.

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  • 1Laboratory of Immunology, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-1892, USA.


CD4(+)CD25(+) regulatory T cells inhibit organ-specific autoimmune diseases induced by CD4(+)CD25(-) T cells and are potent suppressors of T cell activation in vitro. Their mechanism of suppression remains unknown, but most in vitro studies suggest that it is cell contact-dependent and cytokine independent. The role of TGF-beta1 in CD4(+)CD25(+) suppressor function remains unclear. While most studies have failed to reverse suppression with anti-transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta1 in vitro, one recent study has reported that CD4(+)CD25(+) T cells express cell surface TGF-beta1 and that suppression can be completely abrogated by high concentrations of anti-TGF-beta suggesting that cell-associated TGF-beta1 was the primary effector of CD4(+)CD25(+)-mediated suppression. Here, we have reevaluated the role of TGF-beta1 in CD4(+)CD25(+)-mediated suppression. Neutralization of TGF-beta1 with either monoclonal antibody (mAb) or soluble TGF-betaRII-Fc did not reverse in vitro suppression mediated by resting or activated CD4(+)CD25(+) T cells. Responder T cells from Smad3(-/-) or dominant-negative TGF-beta type RII transgenic (DNRIITg) mice, that are both unresponsive to TGF-beta1-induced growth arrest, were as susceptible to CD4(+)CD25(+)-mediated suppression as T cells from wild-type mice. Furthermore, CD4(+)CD25(+) T cells from neonatal TGF-beta1(-/-) mice were as suppressive as CD4(+)CD25(+) from TGF-beta1(+/+) mice. Collectively, these results demonstrate that CD4(+)CD25(+) suppressor function can occur independently of TGF-beta1.

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