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Regulatory T-cell expansion during chronic viral infection is dependent on endogenous retroviral superantigens

Punkosdy, George A., Blain, Melissa, Glass, Deborah D., Lozano, Mary M., O'Mara, Leigh, Dudley, Jaquelin P., Ahmed, Rafi, Shevach, Ethan M.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2011 v.108 no.9 pp. 3677-3682
Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, T-lymphocytes, dendritic cells, genes, immune response, mice, pathogens, superantigens
Regulatory T cells (Treg) play critical roles in the modulation of immune responses to infectious agents. Further understanding of the factors that control Treg activation and expansion in response to pathogens is needed to manipulate Treg function in acute and chronic infections. Here we show that chronic, but not acute, infection of mice with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus results in a marked expansion of Foxp3⁺ Treg that is dependent on retroviral superantigen (sag) genes encoded in the mouse genome. Sag-dependent Treg expansion was MHC class II dependent, CD4 independent, and required dendritic cells. Thus, one unique mechanism by which certain infectious agents evade host immune responses may be mediated by endogenous Sag-dependent activation and expansion of Treg.