• ATP inhibits the generation and function of regulatory T cells through the activation of purinergic P2X receptors.

      Schenk, Ursula; Frascoli, Michela; Proietti, Michele; Geffers, Robert; Traggiai, Elisabetta; Buer, Jan; Ricordi, Camillo; Westendorf, Astrid M; Grassi, Fabio; Institute for Research in Biomedicine, Bellinzona, Switzerland. (2011)
      Extracellular nucleotides are pleiotropic regulators of mammalian cell function. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) released from CD4(+) helper T cells upon stimulation of the T cell receptor (TCR) contributes in an autocrine manner to the activation of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling through purinergic P2X receptors. Increased expression of p2rx7, which encodes the purinergic receptor P2X7, is part of the transcriptional signature of immunosuppressive CD4(+)CD25(+) regulatory T cells (T(regs)). Here, we show that the activation of P2X7 by ATP inhibits the suppressive potential and stability of T(regs). The inflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) increased ATP synthesis and P2X7-mediated signaling in T(regs), which induced their conversion to IL-17-secreting T helper 17 (T(H)17) effector cells in vivo. Moreover, pharmacological antagonism of P2X receptors promoted the cell-autonomous conversion of naïve CD4(+) T cells into T(regs) after TCR stimulation. Thus, ATP acts as an autocrine factor that integrates stimuli from the microenvironment and cellular energetics to tune the developmental and immunosuppressive program of the T cell in adaptive immune responses.
    • Hypoxia Enhances Immunosuppression by Inhibiting CD4+ Effector T Cell Function and Promoting Treg Activity.

      Westendorf, Astrid M; Skibbe, Kathrin; Adamczyk, Alexandra; Buer, Jan; Geffers, Robert; Hansen, Wiebke; Pastille, Eva; Jendrossek, Verena; Helmholtz Centre for infection research, Inhoffenstr. 7, 38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2017)
      Hypoxia occurs in many pathological conditions, including inflammation and cancer. Within this context, hypoxia was shown to inhibit but also to promote T cell responses. Due to this controversial function, we aimed to explore whether an insufficient anti-tumour response during colitis-associated colon cancer could be ascribed to a hypoxic microenvironment.
    • Impact of 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine and epigallocatechin-3-gallate for induction of human regulatory T cells.

      Kehrmann, Jan; Tatura, Roman; Zeschnigk, Michael; Probst-Kepper, Michael; Geffers, Robert; Steinmann, Joerg; Buer, Jan; Institute of Medical Microbiology, University Hospital Essen, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany. (2014-07)
      The epigenetic regulation of transcription factor genes is critical for T-cell lineage specification. A specific methylation pattern within a conserved region of the lineage specifying transcription factor gene FOXP3, the Treg-specific demethylated region (TSDR), is restricted to regulatory T (Treg) cells and is required for stable expression of FOXP3 and suppressive function. We analysed the impact of hypomethylating agents 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine and epigallocatechin-3-gallate on human CD4(+)  CD25(-) T cells for generating demethylation within FOXP3-TSDR and inducing functional Treg cells. Gene expression, including lineage-specifying transcription factors of the major T-cell lineages and their leading cytokines, functional properties and global transcriptome changes were analysed. The FOXP3-TSDR methylation pattern was determined by using deep amplicon bisulphite sequencing. 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine induced FOXP3-TSDR hypomethylation and expression of the Treg-cell-specific genes FOXP3 and LRRC32. Proliferation of 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine-treated cells was reduced, but the cells did not show suppressive function. Hypomethylation was not restricted to FOXP3-TSDR and expression of master transcription factors and leading cytokines of T helper type 1 and type 17 cells were induced. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate induced global DNA hypomethylation to a lesser extent than 5-aza-2'-deoxycitidine, but no relevant hypomethylation within FOXP3-TSDR or expression of Treg-cell-specific genes. Neither of the DNA methyltransferase inhibitors induced fully functional human Treg cells. 5-aza-2'-deoxycitidine-treated cells resembled Treg cells, but they did not suppress proliferation of responder cells, which is an essential capability to be used for Treg cell transfer therapy. Using a recently developed targeted demethylation technology might be a more promising approach for the generation of functional Treg cells.