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Eur J Immunol. 2015 Feb;45(2):480-91. doi: 10.1002/eji.201444991. Epub 2014 Dec 2.

Immature dendritic cells convert anergic nonregulatory T cells into Foxp3- IL-10+ regulatory T cells by engaging CD28 and CTLA-4.

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Institute of Virology and Immunobiology, University of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany.


Anergic T cells can survive for long time periods passively in a hyporesponsive state without obvious active functions. Thus, the immunological reason for their maintenance is unclear. Here, we induced peptide-specific anergy in T cells from mice by coculturing these cells with immature murine dendritic cells (DCs). We found that these anergic, nonsuppressive IL-10(-) Foxp3(-) CTLA-4(+) CD25(low) Egr2(+) T cells could be converted into suppressive IL-10(+) Foxp3(-) CTLA-4(+) CD25(high) Egr2(+) cells resembling type-1 Treg cells (Tr1) when stimulated a second time by immature DCs in vitro. Addition of TGF-β during anergy induction favored Foxp3(+) Treg-cell induction, while TGF-β had little effect when added to the second stimulation. Expression of both CD28 and CTLA-4 molecules on anergic T cells was required to allow their conversion into Tr1-like cells. Suppressor activity was enabled via CD28-mediated CD25 upregulation, acting as an IL-2 sink, together with a CTLA-4-mediated inhibition of NFATc1/α activation to shut down IL-2-mediated proliferation. Together, these data provide evidence and mechanistical insights into how persistent anergic T cells may serve as a resting memory pool for Tr1-like cells.


CD28; CTLA-4; Dendritic cell; T-cell anergy; Treg cell

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