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J Immunol. 2012 May 1;188(9):4644-53. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1100272. Epub 2012 Mar 28.

Type 1 diabetes-associated IL2RA variation lowers IL-2 signaling and contributes to diminished CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cell function.

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Department of Immunobiology, School of Medicine, King's College London, London SE1 9RT, United Kingdom.


Numerous reports have demonstrated that CD4(+)CD25(+) regulatory T cells (Tregs) from individuals with a range of human autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, are deficient in their ability to control autologous proinflammatory responses when compared with nondiseased, control individuals. Treg dysfunction could be a primary, causal event or may result from perturbations in the immune system during disease development. Polymorphisms in genes associated with Treg function, such as IL2RA, confer a higher risk of autoimmune disease. Although this suggests a primary role for defective Tregs in autoimmunity, a link between IL2RA gene polymorphisms and Treg function has not been examined. We addressed this by examining the impact of an IL2RA haplotype associated with type 1 diabetes on Treg fitness and suppressive function. Studies were conducted using healthy human subjects to avoid any confounding effects of disease. We demonstrated that the presence of an autoimmune disease-associated IL2RA haplotype correlates with diminished IL-2 responsiveness in Ag-experienced CD4(+) T cells, as measured by phosphorylation of STAT5a, and is associated with lower levels of FOXP3 expression by Tregs and a reduction in their ability to suppress proliferation of autologous effector T cells. These data offer a rationale that contributes to the molecular and cellular mechanisms through which polymorphisms in the IL-2RA gene affect immune regulation, and consequently upon susceptibility to autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.

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