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J Exp Med. 2007 Jul 9;204(7):1543-51. Epub 2007 Jun 25.

CREB/ATF-dependent T cell receptor-induced FoxP3 gene expression: a role for DNA methylation.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Immunology, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Regulatory T cells (T reg cells) are a population of CD4+ T cells that limit immune responses. FoxP3 is a master control transcription factor for development and function of these cells, but its regulation is poorly understood. We have identified a T cell receptor-responsive enhancer in the FoxP3 first intron that is dependent on a cyclic-AMP response element binding protein (CREB)/activating transcription factor (ATF) site overlapping a CpG island. Methylation of this island inversely correlates with CREB binding and FoxP3 expression. Interestingly, transforming growth factor-beta, which induces T reg cell formation, decreases methylation of the CpG island and increases FoxP3 expression. Similarly, inhibiting methylation with 5-azacytidine or knocking down the DNA methyltransferase Dnmt1 also induces FoxP3 expression. Conversely, methylation of the CpG island, which decreases CREB binding or expression of dominant-negative CREB, decreases FoxP3 gene expression. Thus, T cell receptor-induced FoxP3 expression in T reg cells is controlled both by sequence-specific binding of CREB/ATF and by DNA methylation of a CpG island.

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