Editors' ChoiceImmunology

Starved into Submission?

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science's STKE  27 Nov 2007:
Vol. 2007, Issue 414, pp. tw431
DOI: 10.1126/stke.4142007tw431

CD4+CD25+ thymus-derived regulatory T cells (Treg cells) suppress the activity of naïve and effector T cells, limiting the immune response and helping guard against autoimmune activity. The mechanisms whereby they inhibit the activity of target cells, however, have been controversial and unclear (see Scheffold et al.). Pandiyan et al. found that Treg cells elicited the apoptosis of activated "responder" CD4+ T cells with which they were cocultured, without blocking their proliferation or the early production of interleukin-2 (IL-2). Apoptosis of responder T cells occurred in the presence of Treg cells from perforin-deficient or Fas ligand mutant mice, occurred over several days (peaking 3 to 4 days after activation), depended on the proapoptotic protein Bim, and was blocked by cytokines that signal through the common γ chain. Pharmacological analysis of the cytokine-dependent Akt pathway indicated that the ability of IL-7 to rescue responder T cell survival depended on phosphatidylinositol-3-OH kinase (which activates Akt), whereas Akt phosphorylation in responder T cells was decreased in the presence of Treg cells, as was phosphorylation (and thereby deactivation) of the proapoptotic protein Bad. Bad phosphorylation was enhanced during IL-7 rescue. In a mouse model of inflammatory bowel disease involving the transfer of colitogenic CD4+CD45RBhi T cells, Treg cells protected against colitis and stimulated the Bim-dependent apoptosis of the transferred T cells. The authors thus conclude that Treg cells can inhibit effector T cell responses both in vitro and in vivo by depriving them of cytokines and eliciting their apoptotic death.

P. Pandiyan, L. Zheng, S. Ishihara, J. Reed, M. J. Lenardo, CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ regulatory T cells induce cytokine deprivation-mediated apoptosis of effector CD4+ T cells. Nat. Immunol. 8, 1353-1362 (2007). [PubMed]

A. Scheffold, K. M. Murphy, T. Höfer, Competition for cytokines: Treg cells take all. Nat. Immunol. 8, 1285-1287 (2007). [PubMed]

Stay Connected to Science Signaling