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Cell Mol Immunol. 2015 Sep;12(5):553-7. doi: 10.1038/cmi.2014.133. Epub 2015 Feb 2.

The role of all-trans retinoic acid in the biology of Foxp3+ regulatory T cells.

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Research Center for Translational Medicine, East Hospital, Tongji University School of Medicine, Shanghai, China.
Division of Rheumatology, Penn State Hershey College of Medicine, Hershey, PA, USA.
Division of Liver Surgery, First Affiliated Hospital of Nanjing Medical University, Nanjing, China.
Division of Rheumatology, Immunology and Nephrology, Zhejiang Provincial Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine Hospital, Hangzhou, China.


Regulatory T (Treg) cells are necessary for immune system homeostasis and the prevention of autoimmune diseases. Foxp3 is specifically expressed in Treg cells and plays a key role in their differentiation and function. Foxp3(+) Treg cells are consisted of naturally occurring, thymus-derived Treg (nTreg) and peripheral-induced Treg (iTreg) cells that may have different functional characteristics or synergistic roles. All-trans retinoic acid (atRA), a vitamin A metabolite, regulates a wide range of biological processes, including cell differentiation and proliferation. Recent studies demonstrated that atRA also regulates the differentiation of T helper (Th) cells and Treg cells. Moreover, atRA also sustains nTreg stability under inflammatory conditions. In this review, we summarize the significant progress of our understanding of the role(s) and mechanisms of atRA in Treg biology.

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