Regulation of the NFAT pathway discriminates CD4+CD25 + regulatory T cells from CD4+CD25- helper T cells

Tina L. Sumpter, Kyle K. Payne, David S. Wilkes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) are potent modulators of immune responses. The transcriptional program distinguishing Tregs from the CD4+CD25- Th cells is unclear. NFAT, a key transcription factor, is reported to interact with forkhead box p3, allowing inhibitory and activating signals in T cells. In the current study, we hypothesize that distinctive NFAT regulation in Tregs as compared with Th cells, may contribute to specific functions of these cells. Tregs express basal levels of cytoplasmic NFATc1 and NFATc2. In contrast to Th cells, anti-CD3-mediated T cell activation did not induce nuclear translocation of NFATc1 or NFATc2 in Tregs. This effect was associated with altered regulation for NFAT in Tregs that included reduced calcium flux, diminished calcineurin activation, and increased activity of glycogen synthase kinase-3β, a negative regulatory kinase for NFAT in Tregs relative to Th cells. These data suggested that NFAT inhibition in Th cells may induce regulatory function. Indeed, pharmacologically mediated NFAT inhibition induced Th cells to function as Tregs, an effect that was mediated by induction of membrane-bound TGF-β on Th cells. Collectively, these data suggest that maintaining NFAT at basal levels is a part of the transcriptional program required for Tregs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)708-717
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Leukocyte Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2008


  • Calcineurin
  • Cyclosporine A
  • Gsk3β
  • TGF-β

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology

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