The Foxp3 transcription factor is a crucial determinant of both regulatory T (T REG ) cell development and their functional maintenance. Appropriate modulation of tolerogenic immune responses therefore requires the tight regulation of Foxp3 transcriptional output, and this involves both transcriptional and post-translational regulation. Here, we show that during T cell activation, phosphorylation of Foxp3 in T REG cells can be regulated by a TGF-β activated kinase 1 (TAK1)-Nemo-like kinase (NLK) signaling pathway. NLK interacts and phosphorylates Foxp3 in T REG cells, resulting in the stabilization of protein levels by preventing association with the STUB1 E3-ubiquitin protein ligase. Conditional T REG cell NLK-knockout (NLK ΔTREG ) results in decreased T REG cell-mediated immunosuppression in vivo, and NLK-deficient T REG cell animals develop more severe experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. Our data suggest a molecular mechanism, in which stimulation of TCR-mediated signaling can induce a TAK1-NLK pathway to sustain Foxp3 transcriptional activity through the stabilization of protein levels, thereby maintaining T REG cell suppressive function. The maintenance of Foxp3 expression is critical for correct T REG cell function. Fleskens et al. demonstrate a molecular mechanism in which TCR engagement can stabilize Foxp3 protein expression through TAK1-NLK-regulated phosphorylation, thereby maintaining T REG cell suppressive function.
- immune tolerance
- regulatory T cell
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)