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J Immunol. 2008 Oct 15;181(8):5396-404.

The indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase pathway is essential for human plasmacytoid dendritic cell-induced adaptive T regulatory cell generation.

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Division of Hematology-Oncology, Blood and Marrow Transplantation, Department of Pediatrics and The Cancer Center, University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.


Human plasmacytoid dendritic cells (PDCs) can drive naive, allogeneic CD4(+)CD25(-) T cells to differentiate into CD4(+)CD25(+)Foxp3(+) regulatory T cells (Tregs). However, the intracellular mechanism or mechanisms underlying PDC-induced Treg generation are unknown. In this study, we show that human PDCs express high levels of IDO, an intracellular enzyme that catabolizes tryptophan degradation. Triggering of TLR 9 with CpG oligodeoxynucleotides activates PDCs to up-regulate surface expression of B7 ligands and HLA-DR Ag, but also significantly increases the expression of IDO and results in the generation of inducible Tregs from CD4(+)CD25(-) T cells with potent suppressor cell function. Blocking IDO activity with the pharmacologic inhibitor 1-methyl-D-tryptophan significantly abrogates PDC-driven inducible Treg generation and suppressor cell function. Adding kynurenine, the immediate downstream metabolite of tryptophan, bypasses the 1-methyl-D-tryptophan effect and restores PDC-driven Treg generation. Our results demonstrate that the IDO pathway is essential for PDC-driven Treg generation from CD4(+)CD25(-) T cells and implicate the generation of kynurenine pathway metabolites as the critical mediator of this process.

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