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Science. 2003 Feb 14;299(5609):1057-61. Epub 2003 Jan 9.

Control of regulatory T cell development by the transcription factor Foxp3.

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Laboratory of Immunopathology, Research Center for Allergy and Immunology, Institute for Physical and Chemical Research, Yokohama 230-0045, Japan.


Regulatory T cells engage in the maintenance of immunological self-tolerance by actively suppressing self-reactive lymphocytes. Little is known, however, about the molecular mechanism of their development. Here we show that Foxp3, which encodes a transcription factor that is genetically defective in an autoimmune and inflammatory syndrome in humans and mice, is specifically expressed in naturally arising CD4+ regulatory T cells. Furthermore, retroviral gene transfer of Foxp3 converts naïve T cells toward a regulatory T cell phenotype similar to that of naturally occurring CD4+ regulatory T cells. Thus, Foxp3 is a key regulatory gene for the development of regulatory T cells.

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