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J Immunol. 2010 Jan 15;184(2):685-93. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0902443. Epub 2009 Dec 16.

RNA interference screen in primary human T cells reveals FLT3 as a modulator of IL-10 levels.

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Center for Neurologic Diseases, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Functional studies of human primary immune cells have been hampered by the lack of tools to silence gene functions. In this study, we report the application of a lentiviral RNA interference library in primary human T cells. Using a subgenomic short hair RNA library targeting approximately 1000 signaling genes, we identified novel genes that control the levels of IL-10 produced. IL-10 is a potent anti-inflammatory cytokine secreted by several cell types, including T regulatory type 1 cells, a subset of T regulatory cells that exert their suppressive activity through IL-10 secretion. FLT3, a known hematopoeitic growth factor, was found to be a negative regulator of IL-10 levels in activated T cells. This was based on several observations. First, FLT3 and its ligand (FL) were both induced by T cell activation. Second, silencing of FLT3 led to increased IL-10 levels, whereas addition of FL suppressed IL-10 secretion and increased FLT3 surface levels. Third, engagement of CD46, a known inducer of T regulatory type 1 cells, upregulated surface FLT3, and secreted FL, which then inhibited IL-10 production by T cells. Hence, FL and FLT3 form a novel regulatory feedback loop that limits IL-10 production in T cells. Our results identified FLT3 as a new regulator of T cell function and offer a strategy to genetically dissect specific pathways in T cells.

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