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J Immunol. 2011 Jan 1;186(1):156-63. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1001505. Epub 2010 Nov 22.

A major role for Bim in regulatory T cell homeostasis.

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  • 1Division of Molecular Immunology, Department of Pediatrics, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH 45229, USA.


We have previously shown that regulatory T cells (Treg) accumulate dramatically in aged animals and negatively impact the ability to control persistent infection. However, the mechanisms underlying the age-dependent accrual of Treg remain unclear. In this study, we show that Treg accumulation with age is progressive and likely not the result of increased thymic output, increased peripheral proliferation, or from enhanced peripheral conversion. Instead, we found that Treg from aged mice are more resistant to apoptosis than Treg from young mice. Although Treg from aged mice had increased expression of functional IL-7Rα, we found that IL-7R signaling was not required for maintenance of Treg in vivo. Notably, aged Treg exhibit decreased expression of the proapoptotic molecule Bim compared with Treg from young mice. Furthermore, in the absence of Bim, Treg accumulate rapidly, accounting for >25% of the CD4(+) T cell compartment by 6 mo of age. Additionally, accumulation of Treg in Bim-deficient mice occurred after the cells left the transitional recent thymic emigrant compartment. Mechanistically, we show that IL-2 drives preferential proliferation and accumulation of Bim(lo) Treg. Collectively, our data suggest that chronic stimulation by IL-2 leads to preferential expansion of Treg having low expression of Bim, which favors their survival and accumulation in aged hosts.

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