TNF activates a NF-κB-regulated cellular program in human CD45RA - regulatory T cells that modulates their suppressive function

Meital Nagar, Jasmine Jacob-Hirsch, Helly Vernitsky, Yackov Berkun, Shomron Ben-Horin, Ninette Amariglio, Ilan Bank, Yoel Kloog, Gideon Rechavi, Itamar Goldstein*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

134 Scopus citations


Emerging data suggest that regulatory T cell (Treg) dysfunction and consequent breakdown of immunological self-tolerance in autoimmunity can be mediated by factors that are not Treg-intrinsic (e.g., cytokines). Indeed, recent studies show that in rheumatoid arthritis the proinflammatory cytokine TNF reduces the suppressive function of Tregs, whereas in vivo TNF blockade restores this function and accordingly self-tolerance. However, until now a coherent mechanism by which TNF regulates the Treg has not been described. In this paper, we show that TNF induces preferential and significant activation of the canonical NF-κB pathway in human Tregs as compared with CD25 - conventional T cells. Furthermore, TNF induced primarily in CD45RA- Tregs a transcription program highly enriched for typical NF-κB target genes, such as the cytokines lymphotoxin-α and TNF, the TNFR superfamily members FAS, 4-1BB, and OX-40, various antiapoptotic genes, and other important immune-response genes. FACS analysis revealed that TNF also induced upregulation of cell surface expression of 4-1BB and OX40 specifically in CD45RA-FOXP3+ Tregs. In contrast, TNF had only a minimal effect on the Treg's core transcriptional signature or on the intracellular levels of the FOXP3 protein in Tregs. Importantly, TNF treatment modulated the capacity of Tregs to suppress the proliferation and IFN-γ secretion by conventional T cells, an effect that was fully reversed by cotreatment with anti-TNFR2 mAbs. Our findings thus provide new mechanistic insight into the role of TNF and TNFR2 in the pathogenesis of autoimmunity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3570-3581
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2010


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