Insight into Autoimmunity-Fighting Cells

Insight into Autoimmunity-Fighting Cells

T regulatory (Treg) cells are essential for suppressing the body’s immune response. Understanding how Treg cells mature in the thymus gland could shed light on treating fatal autoimmune disorders like IPEX syndrome, which is caused by mutations in the Foxp3 gene. In a study published online on December 18 in Nature Communications, Gregoire Lauvau, Ph.D., and colleagues provide important information on how Treg cells mature and acquire their functional identity in mice. The interleukin-2 (IL-2) cytokine is known to trigger Treg cell development, followed by expression of the gene that encodes the Foxp3 transcription factor. The work reveals that IL-2 is also essential to control a genome organizing protein called SATB1 needed for Treg cells to develop and function normally prior to Foxp3 expression.  The findings suggest that earlier use of current low-dose IL-2 therapy could reprogram Treg cells and help them reach maturity before autoimmunity appears. Dr. Lauvau is professor of microbiology and immunology at Einstein.