Regulatory T (Treg) cells, characterized by expression of the transcription factor forkhead box P3 (Foxp3), maintain immune homeostasis by suppressing self-destructive immune responses. Foxp3 operates as a late-acting differentiation factor controlling Tregcell homeostasis and function, whereas the early Treg-cell-lineage commitment is regulated by the Akt kinase and the forkhead box O (Foxo) family of transcription factors. However, whether Foxo proteins act beyond the Treg-cell- commitment stage to control Tregcell homeostasis and function remains largely unexplored. Here we show that Foxo1 is a pivotal regulator of Tregcell function. Tregcells express high amounts of Foxo1 and display reduced T-cell-receptor-induced Akt activation, Foxo1 phosphorylation and Foxo1 nuclear exclusion. Mice with Treg-cell- specific deletion of Foxo1 develop a fatal inflammatory disorder similar in severity to that seen in Foxp3-deficient mice, but without the loss of Tregcells. Genome-wide analysis of Foxo1 binding sites reveals ∼300 Foxo1-bound target genes, including the pro-inflammatory cytokine Ifng, that do not seem to be directly regulated by Foxp3. These findings show that the evolutionarily ancient Akt-Foxo1 signalling module controls a novel genetic program indispensable for Tregcell function.

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Nature: international weekly journal of science
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Ouyang, W, Liao, W, Luo, C.T, Yin, N, Huse, M, Kim, M.V, … Li, M.O. (2012). Novel Foxo1-dependent transcriptional programs control T reg cell function. Nature: international weekly journal of science, 491(7425), 554–559. doi:10.1038/nature11581