Critical role of all-trans retinoic acid in stabilizing human natural regulatory T cells under inflammatory conditions

Ling Lu, Qin Lan, Zhiyuan Li, Xiaohui Zhou, Jian Gu, Qiang Li, Julie Wang, Maogen Chen, Ya Liu, Yi Shen, David D. Brand, Bernhard Ryffel, David A. Horwitz, Francisco P. Quismorio, Zhongmin Liu, Bin Li, Nancy J. Olsen, Song Guo Zheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

177 Scopus citations


Recent studies have demonstrated that thymus-derived naturally occurring CD4+Foxp3+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) in human and mouse may be unstable and dysfunctional in the presence of proinflammatory cytokines. All-trans RA (atRA), the active derivative of vitamin A, has been shown to regulate Treg and T effector cell differentiation. We hypothesize atRA stabilizes human natural Tregs (nTregs) under inflammatory conditions. atRA prevents human nTregs from converting to Th1 and/or Th17 cells and sustains their Foxp3 expression and suppressive function in vitro or in vivo following encounters with IL-1 and IL-6. Interestingly, adoptive transfer of human nTregs pretreated with atRA significantly enhanced their suppressive effects on xenograft-vs.-host diseases (xGVHDs), and atRA- but not rapamycin-pretreated nTregs sustained the functional activity against xGVHD after stimulation with IL-1/IL-6. atRA suppresses IL-1 receptor (IL-1R) up-regulation, accelerates IL-6R down-regulation, and diminishes their signaling events as well as prevents the up-regulation of STIP1 homology and U-Box containing protein 1 on Foxp3+ cells following IL-1/IL-6 stimulation. atRA also increases histone acetylation on Foxp3 gene promoter and CpG demethylation in the region of Foxp3 locus (i.e., Treg-specific demethylated region). These results strongly implicate that nTregs primed with atRA may represent a novel treatment strategy to control established chronic immune-mediated autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E3432-E3440
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number33
StatePublished - Aug 19 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Critical role of all-trans retinoic acid in stabilizing human natural regulatory T cells under inflammatory conditions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this