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J Exp Med. 2009 Oct 26;206(11):2329-37. doi: 10.1084/jem.20090226. Epub 2009 Oct 19.

Runx proteins regulate Foxp3 expression.

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Lymphocyte Development Group, Medical Research Council Clinical Sciences Centre, Imperial College London, London W12 0NN, England, UK.


Runx proteins are essential for hematopoiesis and play an important role in T cell development by regulating key target genes, such as CD4 and CD8 as well as lymphokine genes, during the specialization of naive CD4 T cells into distinct T helper subsets. In regulatory T (T reg) cells, the signature transcription factor Foxp3 interacts with and modulates the function of several other DNA binding proteins, including Runx family members, at the protein level. We show that Runx proteins also regulate the initiation and the maintenance of Foxp3 gene expression in CD4 T cells. Full-length Runx promoted the de novo expression of Foxp3 during inducible T reg cell differentiation, whereas the isolated dominant-negative Runt DNA binding domain antagonized de novo Foxp3 expression. Foxp3 expression in natural T reg cells remained dependent on Runx proteins and correlated with the binding of Runx/core-binding factor beta to regulatory elements within the Foxp3 locus. Our data show that Runx and Foxp3 are components of a feed-forward loop in which Runx proteins contribute to the expression of Foxp3 and cooperate with Foxp3 proteins to regulate the expression of downstream target genes.

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