Background & aims: The intestinal immune system is tightly regulated to prevent responses against the many nonpathogenic antigens in the gut. Transforming growth factor (TGF)-β is a cytokine that maintains intestinal homeostasis, in part by inducing Foxp3(+) regulatory T cells (Tregs) that suppress immune responses. TGF-β is expressed at high levels in the gastrointestinal tract as a latent complex that must be activated. However, the pathways that control TGF-β activation in the intestine are poorly defined. We investigated the cellular and molecular pathways that control activation of TGF-β and induction of Foxp3(+) Tregs in the intestines of mice to maintain immune homeostasis.
Methods: Subsets of intestinal dendritic cells (DCs) were examined for their capacity to activate TGF-β and induce Foxp3(+) Tregs in vitro. Mice were fed oral antigen, and induction of Foxp3(+) Tregs was measured.
Results: A tolerogenic subset of intestinal DCs that express CD103 were specialized to activate latent TGF-β, and induced Foxp3(+) Tregs independently of the vitamin A metabolite retinoic acid. The integrin αvβ8, which activates TGF-β, was significantly up-regulated on CD103(+) intestinal DCs. DCs that lack expression of integrin αvβ8 had reduced ability to activate latent TGF-β and induce Foxp3(+) Tregs in vitro and in vivo.
Conclusions: CD103(+) intestinal DCs promote a tolerogenic environment in the intestines of mice via integrin αvβ8-mediated activation of TGF-β.
Copyright © 2011 AGA Institute. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.