Regulatory T cells (Tregs), a subset of CD4(+) helper T cells, are crucial for immunological self-tolerance. Defect in development or function of Tregs results in autoimmune disease in human and mice. Whereas it is known that Tregs mainly develop in the thymus, the molecular mechanism underlying development of Treg is not fully understood. TRAF6-deficient mice showed a severe defect in the Treg development in thymus. In vitro fetal thymic organ culture experiments indicated that the defect is ascribed to the absence of TRAF6 in thymic cells. Moreover, mixed fetal liver transfer experiments revealed that the development of Foxp3(+) cells differentiated from Traf6(-/-) hematopoietic cells was specifically impaired in the thymus, indicating cell-intrinsic requirement for TRAF6 in the Treg development. On the other hand, TRAF6 is not required for the development of conventional CD4(+) T cell. In addition, TGFβ-dependent induction of Foxp3 in CD4(+) T cells in vitro was not impaired by the absence of TRAF6. Overall, our data indicate that TRAF6 plays an essential role on the commitment of immature thymocytes to thymic Tregs in cell-intrinsic fashion.
© 2011 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2011 by the Molecular Biology Society of Japan/Blackwell Publishing Ltd.