Tumor evasion of the immune system by converting CD4+CD25- T cells into CD4+CD25+ T regulatory cells: role of tumor-derived TGF-beta

J Immunol. 2007 Mar 1;178(5):2883-92. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.178.5.2883.


CD4+CD25+ T regulatory (T(reg)) cells were initially described for their ability to suppress autoimmune diseases in animal models. An emerging interest is the potential role of T(reg) cells in cancer development and progression because they have been shown to suppress antitumor immunity. In this study, CD4+CD25- T cells cultured in conditioned medium (CM) derived from tumor cells, RENCA or TRAMP-C2, possess similar characteristics as those of naturally occurring T(reg) cells, including expression of Foxp3, a crucial transcription factor of T(reg) cells, production of low levels of IL-2, high levels of IL-10 and TGF-beta, and the ability to suppress CD4+CD25- T cell proliferation. Further investigation revealed a critical role of tumor-derived TGF-beta in converting CD4+CD25- T cells into T(reg) cells because a neutralizing Ab against TGF-beta, 1D11, completely abrogated the induction of T(reg) cells. CM from a nontumorigenic cell line, NRP-152, or irradiated tumor cells did not convert CD4+CD25- T cells to T(reg) cells because they produce low levels of TGF-beta in CM. Finally, we observed a reduced tumor burden in animals receiving 1D11. The reduction in tumor burden correlated with a decrease in tumor-derived TGF-beta. Treatment of 1D11 also reduced the conversion of CD4+ T cells into T(reg) cells and subsequent T(reg) cell-mediated suppression of antitumor immunity. In summary, we have demonstrated that tumor cells directly convert CD4+CD25- T cells to T(reg) cells through production of high levels of TGF-beta, suggesting a possible mechanism through which tumor cells evade the immune system.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Culture Media, Conditioned
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Interleukin-2 Receptor alpha Subunit / immunology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Neoplasm Proteins / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / pathology
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / immunology*
  • Tumor Escape*


  • Culture Media, Conditioned
  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-2 Receptor alpha Subunit
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta