Human CD4+CD25highCD127-FoxP3+ regulatory T (Treg) cells suppress immune responses in vitro and in vivo. Reduced suppressive function and/or number of peripheral Treg cells has been previously reported in autoimmune disorders. Treg cells represent the most actively replicating compartment within the CD4+ cells in vivo, but they are hyporesponsive to classical T cell receptor (TCR) stimulation in vitro, a condition that is secondary to their overactive metabolic state. Here we report that proliferation of Treg cells after TCR stimulation is impaired in subjects with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) because of altered interleukin-2 (IL-2) secretion and IL-2 receptor (IL-2R)-signal transducer and activator of transcription 5 (STAT5) signaling. This is associated with decreased expression of the forkhead box P3 (FoxP3) 44- and 47-kDa splicing forms, overactivation of S6 ribosomal protein (a downstream target of the mammalian target of rapamycin, mTOR) and altered activity of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27 (p27kip1) and extracellular signal-related kinases 1 and 2 (ERK1/2). The impaired capacity of Treg cells to proliferate in RRMS correlates with the clinical state of the subject, where increasing disease severity is associated with a decline in Treg cell expansion. These results suggest a previously unrecognized mechanism that may account for the progressive loss of Treg cells in autoimmune disease.
Immunologists have found that Treg cells are important in the control of autoimmunity and this study suggests there is a problem in T reg function in MS.