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J Immunol. 2005 Dec 15;175(12):8051-9.

Human CD4+ T cells express TLR5 and its ligand flagellin enhances the suppressive capacity and expression of FOXP3 in CD4+CD25+ T regulatory cells.

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Department of Surgery, University of British Columbia and Immunity and Infection Centre, Vancouver, BC.


Germline encoded pattern recognition receptors, such as TLRs, provide a critical link between the innate and adaptive immune systems. There is also evidence to suggest that pathogen-associated molecular patterns may have the capacity to modulate immune responses via direct effects on CD4+ T cells. Given the key role of both CD4+CD25+ T regulatory (Treg) cells and the TLR5 ligand flagellin in regulating mucosal immune responses, we investigated whether TLR5 may directly influence T cell function. We found that both human CD4+CD25+ Treg and CD4+CD25- T cells express TLR5 at levels comparable to those on monocytes and dendritic cells. Costimulation of effector T cells with anti-CD3 and flagellin resulted in enhanced proliferation and production of IL-2, at levels equivalent to those achieved by costimulation with CD28. In contrast, costimulation with flagellin did not break the hyporesponsiveness of CD4+CD25+ Treg cells, but rather, potently increased their suppressive capacity and enhanced expression of FOXP3. These observations suggest that, in addition to their APC-mediated indirect effects, TLR ligands have the capacity to directly regulate T cell responses and modulate the suppressive activity of Treg cells.

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