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J Immunol. 2006 Sep 1;177(5):3133-42.

Analysis of FOXP3 reveals multiple domains required for its function as a transcriptional repressor.

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Benaroya Research Institute, Virginia Mason, Seattle, WA 98101, USA.


Foxp3 has been shown to be both necessary and sufficient for the development and function of naturally arising CD4+ CD25+ regulatory T cells in mice. Mutation of Foxp3 in Scurfy mice and FOXP3 in humans with IPEX results in fatal, early onset autoimmune disease and demonstrates the critical role of FOXP3 in maintaining immune homeostasis. The FOXP3 protein encodes several functional domains, including a C2H2 zinc finger, a leucine zipper, and a winged-helix/forkhead (FKH) domain. We have shown previously that FOXP3 functions as a transcriptional repressor and inhibits activation-induced IL-2 gene transcription. To characterize the role of each predicted functional domain on the in vivo activity of FOXP3, we have evaluated the location of point mutations identified in a large cohort of patients with the immune dysregulation, polyendocrinopathy, enteropathy, X-linked syndrome (IPEX) and found them to cluster primarily within the FKH domain and the leucine zipper, but also present within the poorly defined N-terminal portion of the protein. The molecular functions of each of the IPEX-targeted domains were investigated. We show that FOXP3 is constitutively localized to the nucleus and this localization requires sequences at both the amino and C-terminal ends of its FKH domain. Moreover, FOXP3 was found to homodimerize through its leucine zipper. We also identify a novel functional domain within the N-terminal half of FOXP3, which is required for FOXP3-mediated repression of transcription from both a constitutively active and a NF-AT-inducible promoter. Furthermore, we demonstrate that IPEX mutations in these domains correlate with deficiencies in FOXP3 repressor function, corroborating their in vivo relevance.

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