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Allergy Asthma Clin Immunol. 2011 Nov 29;7:19. doi: 10.1186/1710-1492-7-19.

VIP Regulates the Development & Proliferation of Treg in vivo in spleen.

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Stony Brook University School of Medicine, Department of Medicine, 100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook, NY 11794, USA.



Mounting evidence supports a key role for VIP as an anti-inflammatory agent and promoter of immune tolerance. It suppresses TNF-α and other inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, upregulates anti-inflammatory IL-10, and promotes immune tolerant cells called T regulatory (Treg) cells. VIP KO mice have recently been demonstrated to have spontaneous airway and pulmonary perivascular inflammatory responses, as part of asthma-like and pulmonary hypertension phenotypes, respectively. Both inflammatory responses are correctable with VIP. Focusing on this model, we have now investigated the influence of VIP not only on inflammatory cells but also on Treg cells.


Using flow cytometric analysis, we examined the relative preponderance of CD25+CD4+ cells and anti-inflammatory Treg cells, in extracts of thymus and spleen from VIP KO mice (5 VIP KO; 5 VIP KO+ VIP; 10 wild-type). This method allowed antibody-based flow cytometric identification of Treg cells using surface markers CD25 and CD4, along with the: 1) intracellular activation marker FoxP3; and 2) Helios, which distinguishes cells of thymic versus splenic derivation.


Deletion of the VIP gene results in: 1) CD25+CD4- cell accumulation in the thymus, which is corrected by VIP treatment; 2) more Treg in thymus lacking Foxp3 expression, suggesting VIP is necessary for immune tolerance; and, 3) a tendency towards deficiency of Treg cells in the spleen, which is normalized by VIP treatment. Treg lacking Helios are induced by VIP intrasplenically rather than by migration from the thymus. These results confirm the dual role of VIP as an anti-inflammatory and immune tolerance-promoting agent.

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