Constant expression of a single protein, Foxp3, is essential to maintain the identity and character of regulatory T (Treg) cells, according to a paper appearing in the March 2007 issue of Nature Immunology.
Treg cells are needed to suppress autoimmune diseases. Although Foxp3 expression is required for the production of these cells, it is unknown whether continuous expression of Foxp3 is critical for maintaining the suppressive function of Treg cells.
Alexander Rudensky and colleagues used a clever strategy to test the requirement for continuous Foxp3 expression by deleting 'Foxp3' from mature Treg cells. These Foxp3-deficient cells lost hallmark Treg features and, unlike normal Treg cells, failed to suppress auto-aggressive T cells and the development of autoimmunity in mice. Precisely how Foxp3 persistence maintains the Treg 'identity' remains for future investigation.
Alexander Rudensky, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Immunology press release.
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