Research Papers:

Transcription factor c-Rel is indispensable for generation of thymic but not of peripheral Foxp3+ regulatory T cells

Maik Luu, Elena Jenike, Niyati Vachharajani and Alexander Visekruna _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:52678-52689. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.17079

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Maik Luu1, Elena Jenike1, Niyati Vachharajani1 and Alexander Visekruna1

1Institute for Medical Microbiology and Hygiene, Philipps University of Marburg, Marburg, Germany

Correspondence to:

Alexander Visekruna, email: [email protected]

Keywords: regulatory T cells, NF-κB, inflammation

Received: January 13, 2017     Accepted: March 16, 2017     Published: April 13, 2017


The transcription factor c-Rel has been shown to be crucial for development of regulatory T cells (Tregs). Recent studies have reported that the expression of transcription factor Helios in Foxp3+ Tregs correlates with thymic origin of these cells (tTregs). Notably, we found that only the Helios+Foxp3+ Treg cell population was substantially reduced in c-Rel deficient mice. In contrast to a defective tTreg development, we observed an expansion of mucosal Tregs during the induction of acute colitis in rel-/- mice. Furthermore, we found a preferential accumulation of Helios-Foxp3+ Tregs in aged c-Rel deficient mice. This unexpected finding, together with the observation that naïve CD4+ T cells convert into Tregs in vitro in the absence of c-Rel and presence of IL-2, provide an evidence that extra-thymic generation of induced and peripheral Tregs (iTregs and pTregs) is independent of c-Rel. Moreover, the treatment with IL-2/anti-IL-2 mAb (JES6-1) resulted in a widespread increase of Helios+Foxp3+ Tregs in both wild-type (WT) and rel-/- mice. These data suggest that exogenous IL-2 administration compensates for defective IL-2 production and reduced tTreg numbers in c-Rel deficient mice. Our findings reveal that c-Rel is essential for the generation of tTregs but not for that of pTregs and iTregs.

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