A low interleukin-2 receptor signaling threshold supports the development and homeostasis of T regulatory cells

Immunity. 2009 Feb 20;30(2):204-17. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2008.11.014. Epub 2009 Jan 29.


Interleukin-2 receptor (IL-2R) signaling is essential for T regulatory (Treg) cell development and homeostasis. Here, we show that expression of IL-2Rbeta chains that lack tyrosine residues important for the association of the adaptor Shc and the transcription factor STAT5 in IL-2Rbeta-deficient mice resulted in production of a normal proportion of natural Treg cells that suppressed severe autoimmunity related with deficiency in IL-2 or IL-2R. These mutant IL-2Rbeta chains supported suboptimal and transient STAT5 activation that upregulate the transcription factor Foxp3 to normal amounts in natural, but not induced, Treg cells. Nevertheless, gene expression profiling revealed many targets in peripheral natural Treg cells that were IL-2 dependent and a substantial overlap between the Treg cell IL-2-dependent gene program and the Treg cell transcriptional signature. Collectively, these findings demonstrate that a critical, and perhaps minor, subset of IL-2-dependent targets is indexed to a low IL-2R signaling threshold and that a substantial proportion of the Treg cell gene program is regulated by IL-2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmunity / immunology
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / immunology
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Homeostasis / immunology*
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology
  • Interleukin-2 Receptor beta Subunit / deficiency
  • Interleukin-2 Receptor beta Subunit / genetics
  • Interleukin-2 Receptor beta Subunit / immunology*
  • Interleukin-2 Receptor beta Subunit / metabolism
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*


  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Foxp3 protein, mouse
  • Interleukin-2 Receptor beta Subunit

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE14350