Heligmosomoides polygyrus bakeri Infection Decreases Smad7 Expression in Intestinal CD4+ T Cells, Which Allows TGF-{beta} to Induce IL-10-Producing Regulatory T Cells That Block Colitis [MUCOSAL IMMUNOLOGY]

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Helminthic infections modulate host immunity and may protect their hosts from developing immunological diseases like inflammatory bowel disease. Induction of regulatory T cells (Tregs) may be an important part of this protective process. Heligmosomoides polygyrus bakeri infection also promotes the production of the regulatory cytokines TGF-β and IL-10 in the gut. In the intestines, TGF-β helps induce regulatory T cells. This study used Foxp3/IL-10 double reporter mice to investigate the effect of TGF-β on the differentiation of colon and mesenteric lymph node–derived murine Foxp3 IL-10 CD4+ T cells into their regulatory phenotypes. Foxp3 IL-10 CD4+ T cells from H. polygyrus bakeri–infected mice, as opposed to T cells from uninfected animals, cultured in vitro with TGF-β and anti-CD3/CD28 mAb differentiated into Foxp3+ and/or IL-10+ T cells. The IL-10–producing T cells nearly all displayed CD25. Smad7 is a natural inhibitor of TGF-β signaling. In contrast to gut T cells from uninfected mice, Foxp3 IL10 CD4+ T cells from H. polygyrus bakeri–infected mice displayed reduced Smad7 expression and responded to TGF-β with Smad2/3 phosphorylation. The TGF-β–induced Tregs that express IL-10 blocked colitis when transferred into the Rag/CD25 CD4+ T cell transfer model of inflammatory bowel disease. TGF-β had a greatly diminished capacity to induce Tregs in H. polygyrus bakeri–infected transgenic mice with constitutively high T cell–specific Smad7 expression. Thus, infection with H. polygyrus bakeri causes down-modulation in Smad7 expression in intestinal CD4+ T cells, which allows the TGF-β produced in response to the infection to induce the Tregs that prevent colitis.

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