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The adjuvant effect of TLR agonists on CD4(+) effector T cells is under the indirect control of regulatory T cells.TLR agonists have been suggested to directly impact Tregs, thereby enhancing or reversing their suppressive function. Here, in order to select TLR agonists leading to potent effector T-cell responses, while minimizing Treg inhibitory function, we used a model antigen, covalently linked to an inert delivery system, combined with a large panel of TLR agonists, for the immunization of mice with an attenuated/depleted or intact Treg subset. We observed that the negative modulation of effector CD4(+) T cells exerted by Tregs cannot be circumvented, whatever the TLR agonist used as adjuvant. To better understand the impact of TLR agonists on Tregs, we investigated (i) the TLR expression profile of highly purified CD4(+) Foxp3(+) Tregs, at steady state or subsequent to in vivo activation by TLR agonists and (ii) the Treg phenotype after in vivo and in vitro activation by TLR agonists. Our results demonstrate that TLR agonists, as single signal inducers, are not able to directly activate Tregs. The phenotypic Treg activation observed in vivo, following TLR administration, does not result from cross-talk with conventional T cells but is rather a consequence of the interaction with other immune cell type(s).
Optimal isolation of functional Foxp3+ induced regulatory T cells using DEREG mice.Foxp3 reporter mice including DEREG (DEpletion of REGulatory T cells) mice have greatly helped in exploring the biology of Foxp3(+) Tregs. DEREG mice express a DTR-eGFP fusion protein under the control of a bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC)-encoded Foxp3 promoter, allowing the viable isolation and inducible depletion of Foxp3(+) Tregs. Adaptive Tregs differentiated in vitro to express Foxp3 (iTregs) are gaining high interest as potential therapeutics for inflammatory conditions such as autoimmunity, allergy and transplant rejection. However, selective isolation of Foxp3(+) iTregs with a stable phenotype still remains to be a problem, especially in the human setting. While screening for culture conditions to generate stable CD4(+)Foxp3(+) iTregs from DEREG mice, with maximum suppressive activity, we observed an unexpected dichotomy of eGFP and Foxp3 expression which is not seen in ex vivo isolated cells from DEREG mice. Further characterization of eGFP(+)Foxp3(-) cells revealed relatively lower CD25 expression and a lack of suppressive activity in vitro. Similarly, eGFP(-) cells isolated from the same cultures were not suppressive despite of a broad CD25 expression reflecting mere T cell activation. In contrast, eGFP(+)Foxp3(+) iTregs exhibited potent suppressive activity comparable to that of natural eGFP(+)Foxp3(+) Tregs, emphasizing the importance of isolating Foxp3 expressing iTregs. Interestingly, the use of plate-bound anti-CD3 and anti-CD28 or Flt3L-driven BMDC resulted in considerable resolution of the observed dichotomy. In summary, we defined culture conditions for efficient generation of eGFP(+)Foxp3(+) iTregs by use of DEREG mice. Isolation of functional Foxp3(+) iTregs using DEREG mice can also be achieved under sub-optimal conditions based on the magnitude of surface CD25 expression, in synergy with transgene encoded eGFP. Besides, the reported phenomenon may be of general interest for exploring Foxp3 gene regulation, given that Foxp3 and eGFP expression are driven from distinct Foxp3 loci and because this dichotomy preferentially occurs only under defined in vitro conditions.