Cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 plays an essential role in the function of CD25(+)CD4(+) regulatory cells that control intestinal inflammation.
Read S., Malmström V., Powrie F.
It is now clear that functionally specialized regulatory T (Treg) cells exist as part of the normal immune repertoire, preventing the development of pathogenic responses to both self- and intestinal antigens. Here, we report that the Treg cells that control intestinal inflammation express the same phenotype (CD25(+)CD45RB(low)CD4(+)) as those that control autoimmunity. Previous studies have failed to identify how CD25(+) Treg cells function in vivo. Our studies reveal that the immune-suppressive function of these cells in vivo is dependent on signaling via the negative regulator of T cell activation cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 (CTLA-4), as well as secretion of the immune-suppressive cytokine transforming growth factor beta. Strikingly, constitutive expression of CTLA-4 among CD4(+) cells was restricted primarily to Treg cells, suggesting that CTLA-4 expression by these cells is involved in their immune-suppressive function. These findings raise the possibility that Treg cell function contributes to the immune suppression characteristic of CTLA-4 signaling. Identification of costimulatory molecules involved in the function of Treg cells may facilitate further characterization of these cells and development of new therapeutic strategies for the treatment of inflammatory diseases.