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J Immunol. 2006 Aug 15;177(4):2331-9.

TGF-beta-mediated suppression by CD4+CD25+ T cells is facilitated by CTLA-4 signaling.

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Mucosal Immunity Section, Laboratory of Clinical Investigation, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, 10 Center Drive, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


CD4+CD25+ T cells play a pivotal role in immunological homeostasis by their capacity to exert immunosuppressive activity. However, the mechanism by which these cells function is still a subject for debate. We previously reported that surface (membrane) TGF-beta produced by CD4+CD25+ T cells was an effector molecule mediating suppressor function. We now support this finding by imaging surface TGF-beta on Foxp3+CD4+CD25+ T cells in confocal fluorescence microscopy. Then, using a TGF-beta-sensitive mink lung epithelial cell (luciferase) reporter system, we show that surface TGF-beta can be activated to signal upon cell-cell contact. Moreover, if such TGF-beta signaling is blocked in an in vitro assay of CD4+CD25+ T cell suppression by a specific inhibitor of TGF-betaRI, suppressor function is also blocked. Finally, we address the role of CTLA-4 in CD4+CD25+ T cell suppression, showing first that whereas anti-CTLA-4 does not block in vitro suppressor function, it does complement the blocking activity of anti-TGF-beta. We then show with confocal fluorescence microscopy that incubation of CD4+CD25+ T cells with anti-CTLA-4- and rB7-1/Fc-coated beads results in accumulation of TGF-beta at the cell-bead contact site. This suggests that CTLA-4 signaling facilitates TGF-beta-mediated suppression by intensifying the TGF-beta signal at the point of suppressor cell-target cell interaction.

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