Platelet-derived growth factor-producing CD4+ Foxp3+ regulatory T lymphocytes promote lung fibrosis

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2011 Dec 1;184(11):1270-81. doi: 10.1164/rccm.201103-0516OC. Epub 2011 Aug 25.


Rationale: There is evidence that CD4(+) effector T lymphocytes (T eff) participate in the development of lung fibrosis, but the role of their CD4(+) regulatory T-cell (T reg) counterparts remains to be determined.

Objectives: To elucidate the contribution of T reg cells in a mouse model of lung fibrosis induced by silica (SiO(2)) particles.

Methods: Lung T reg and T eff cells purified from SiO(2)-treated Foxp3-GFP transgenic mice were cocultured with naive lung fibroblasts or transferred to the lungs of healthy mice. DEREG mice, which express the diphtheria toxin receptor under the control of the foxp3 gene, were used to deplete T reg cells during fibrogenesis.

Measurements and main results: CD4(+) Foxp3(+) T reg cells were persistently recruited in the lungs in response to SiO(2). T reg accumulation paralleled the establishment of pulmonary immunosuppression and fibrosis. T reg cells highly expressed platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF)-B via a TGF-β autocrine signaling pathway, directly stimulated fibroblast proliferation in vitro, and increased lung collagen deposition upon transfer in the lung of naive mice. The direct profibrotic effects of T reg cells were abolished by the inhibitor of the PDGF-B/TGF-β signaling pathway, imatinib mesylate. Neutralization of T reg-immunosuppressive activity resulted in enhanced accumulation of T eff cells and IL-4-driven pulmonary fibrogenesis, further demonstrating that T reg cells control T eff cell functions during inflammatory fibrosis.

Conclusions: Our study indicates that T reg cells contribute to lung fibrosis by stimulating fibroblasts through the secretion of PDGF-B in noninflammatory conditions and regulate detrimental T eff cell activities during inflammation-related fibrosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Flow Cytometry / methods
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / immunology*
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Platelet-Derived Growth Factor / immunology*
  • Platelet-Derived Growth Factor / metabolism
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / immunology*
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / metabolism


  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Platelet-Derived Growth Factor