Human macrophages induce CD4+Foxp3+ regulatory T cells via binding and re-release of TGF-β

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Abstract

While pro-inflammatory immune responses are a requirement to combat microbes, uncontrolled self-directed inflammatory immune responses are the hallmark of autoimmune diseases. Restoration of immunological tolerance involves both suppression of ongoing tissue-destructive immune responses and re-education of the host immune system. Both functionally immunosuppressive macrophages (M2) and regulatory T cells (Tregs) are implicated in these processes. Their mutual interaction is synergistic in this context and adoptive transfer of each cell type has been functioning as immunotherapy in experimental models, being particularly effective when using M2 macrophages generated with an optimized interleukin-4 (IL-4)/interleukin-10 (IL-10)/transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) combination. As a prerequisite for eventual translation of M2 therapy into clinical settings we herein studied the induction, stability and mechanism of generation of human induced Tregs (iTregs) by M2 macrophages generated with IL-4/IL-10/TGF-β. The supernatants of monocyte-derived human M2 macrophages robustly induced FOXP3 and other Treg signature molecules such as CTLA-4 andIKZF4in human naïve CD4 T cells. M2-induced iTregs displayed enhanced FOXP3 stability and low expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines interferon-γ and IL-17, as well as functional immunosuppressive activity compared with control T cells. The FOXP3-inducing activity was dependent on TGF-β, which was both expressed and captured with re-release by M2 macrophages into the soluble supernatant fraction, in which the TGF-β was not confined to extracellular vesicles such as exosomes. We propose that adoptive transfer of human M2 macrophages may be exploited in the future to induce Tregsin situby delivering TGF-β, which could be developed as a therapeutic strategy to target autoimmune and other inflammatory diseases.

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