The molecular mechanisms underlying retinoic acid (RA) augmentation of T cell receptor (TCR) and transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β)-induced Foxp3 transcription and inhibition of the latter by cytokines such as IL-27 were here shown to be related processes involving modifications of baseline (TGF-β-induced) phosphorylated Smad3 (pSmad3) binding to a conserved enhancer region (enhancer I). RA augmentation involved the binding of retinoic acid receptor (RAR) and retinoid X receptor (RXR) to a dominant site in enhancer I and a subordinate site in the promoter. This led to increased histone acetylation in the region of the Smad3 binding site and increased binding of pSmad3. Cytokine (IL-27) inhibition involved binding of pStat3 to a gene silencer in a second conserved enhancer region (enhancer II) downstream from enhancer I; this led to loss of pSmad3 binding to enhancer I. Thus, control of accessibility and binding of pSmad3 provides a common framework for positive and negative regulation of TGF-β-induced Foxp3 transcription.
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