The transcription factor T-bet controls regulatory T cell homeostasis and function during type 1 inflammation

Nat Immunol. 2009 Jun;10(6):595-602. doi: 10.1038/ni.1731. Epub 2009 May 3.


Several subsets of Foxp3(+) regulatory T cells (T(reg) cells) work in concert to maintain immune homeostasis. However, the molecular bases underlying the phenotypic and functional diversity of T(reg) cells remain obscure. We show that in response to interferon-gamma, Foxp3(+) T(reg) cells upregulated the T helper type 1 (T(H)1)-specifying transcription factor T-bet. T-bet promoted expression of the chemokine receptor CXCR3 on T(reg) cells, and T-bet(+) T(reg) cells accumulated at sites of T(H)1 cell-mediated inflammation. Furthermore, T-bet expression was required for the homeostasis and function of T(reg) cells during type 1 inflammation. Thus, in a subset of CD4(+) T cells, the activities of the transcription factors Foxp3 and T-bet are overlaid, which results in T(reg) cells with unique homeostatic and migratory properties optimized for the suppression of T(H)1 responses in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Movement
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Homeostasis
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Receptors, CXCR3 / metabolism
  • T-Box Domain Proteins / immunology
  • T-Box Domain Proteins / metabolism*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / metabolism
  • Th1 Cells / immunology*
  • Th1 Cells / metabolism
  • Up-Regulation


  • Cxcr3 protein, mouse
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Foxp3 protein, mouse
  • Receptors, CXCR3
  • T-Box Domain Proteins
  • T-box transcription factor TBX21
  • Interferon-gamma