IL-2, -7, and -15, but not thymic stromal lymphopoeitin, redundantly govern CD4+Foxp3+ regulatory T cell development.

Center for Immunology and Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.
The Journal of Immunology (Impact Factor: 5.36). 10/2008; 181(5):3285-90. DOI: 10.4049/jimmunol.181.5.3285
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Common gamma chain (gammac)-receptor dependent cytokines are required for regulatory T cell (Treg) development as gammac(-/-) mice lack Tregs. However, it is unclear which gammac-dependent cytokines are involved in this process. Furthermore, thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) has also been suggested to play a role in Treg development. In this study, we demonstrate that developing CD4(+)Foxp3(+) Tregs in the thymus express the IL-2Rbeta, IL-4Ralpha, IL-7Ralpha, IL-15Ralpha, and IL-21Ralpha chains, but not the IL9Ralpha or TSLPRalpha chains. Moreover, only IL-2, and to a much lesser degree IL-7 and IL-15, were capable of transducing signals in CD4(+)Foxp3(+) Tregs as determined by monitoring STAT5 phosphorylation. Likewise, IL-2, IL-7, and IL-15, but not TSLP, were capable of inducing the conversion of CD4(+)CD25(+)Foxp3(-) thymic Treg progenitors into CD4(+)Foxp3(+) mature Tregs in vitro. To examine this issue in more detail, we generated IL-2Rbeta(-/-) x IL-7Ralpha(-/-) and IL-2Rbeta(-/-) x IL-4Ralpha(-/-) mice. We found that IL-2Rbeta(-/-) x IL-7Ralpha(-/-) mice were devoid of Tregs thereby recapitulating the phenotype observed in gammac(-/-) mice; in contrast, the phenotype observed in IL-2Rbeta(-/-) x IL-4Ralpha(-/-) mice was comparable to that seen in IL-2Rbeta(-/-) mice. Finally, we observed that Tregs from both IL-2(-/-) and IL-2Rbeta(-/-) mice show elevated expression of IL-7Ralpha and IL-15Ralpha chains. Addition of IL-2 to Tregs from IL-2(-/-) mice led to rapid down-regulation of these receptors. Taken together, our results demonstrate that IL-2 plays the predominant role in Treg development, but that in its absence the IL-7Ralpha and IL-15Ralpha chains are up-regulated and allow for IL-7 and IL-15 to partially compensate for loss of IL-2.

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