The signal transducers and activators of transcription (STAT) family of proteins play a critical role in cytokine signaling required for fine tuning of immune regulation. Previous reports showed that a mutation (L327M) in the Stat5b protein leads to aberrant cytokine signaling in the NOD mice. To further elaborate the role of Stat5b in diabetes, we established a NOD transgenic mouse that over-expresses the wild type Stat5b gene. The incidences of spontaneous diabetes as well as cyclophosphamide-induced diabetes were significantly reduced and delayed in the Stat5b transgenic NOD mice compared to their littermate controls. The total cell numbers of CD4(+) T cells and especially CD8(+) T cells in the spleen and pancreatic lymph node were increased in the Stat5b transgenic NOD mice. Consistent with these findings, CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells from the Stat5b transgenic NOD mice showed a higher proliferation capacity and up-regulation of multiple cytokines including IL-2, IFN-γ, TNF-α and IL-10 as well as anti-apoptotic gene Bcl-xl. Furthermore, the number and proportion of CD4(+)CD25(+) regulatory T cells were significantly increased in transgenic mice although in vitro suppression ability of the regulatory T-cells was not affected by the transgene. Our results suggest that Stat5b confers protection against diabetes in the NOD mice by regulating the numbers and function of multiple immune cell types, especially by up-regulating CD4(+)CD25(+) regulatory T cells.
Published by Elsevier Inc.