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Blood. 2008 Sep 15;112(6):2340-52. doi: 10.1182/blood-2008-01-133967. Epub 2008 Jul 10.

Human CD25highFoxp3pos regulatory T cells differentiate into IL-17-producing cells.

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  • 1Department of Blood Transfusion and Transplantation Immunology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, The Netherlands.


The effector T-cell lineage shows great plasticity. Th17 cells are acknowledged to be instrumental in the response against microbial infection, but are also associated with autoimmune inflammatory processes. Here, we report that human regulatory T cells (CD4(pos)CD25(high)Foxp3(pos)CD127(neg)CD27(pos)) can differentiate into IL-17-producing cells, when stimulated by allogeneic antigen-presenting cells, especially monocytes, in the presence of rhIL-2/rhIL-15. These regulatory T cell (Treg)-derived IL-17-producing cells showed high expression of the Th17-related transcription factor RORgammat and were positively identified by CCR6 expression. This differentiation process was enhanced by exogenous IL-1beta, IL-23, and IL-21, whereas IL-6 or TGFbeta did not affect the emergence of IL-17-producing cells. The addition of IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra), but not anti-IL-23 antibody, reduced IL-17-producing cell numbers. When an histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor trichostatin A (TSA) was evaluated, we found a profound negative effect on the emergence of IL-17-producing cells from Tregs, implying that Treg differentiation into IL-17-producing cells depends on histone/protein deacetylase activity. Thus, the data suggest that epigenetic modification underlies the phenomenon of Treg plasticity here described.

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