The Journal of Immunology
R-Ras is a member of the Ras superfamily of small GTPases, which are regulators of various cellular processes, including adhesion, survival, proliferation, trafficking, and cytokine production. R-Ras is expressed by immune cells and has been shown to modulate dendritic cell (DC) function in vitro and has been associated with liver autoimmunity. We used Rras-deficient mice to study the mechanism whereby R-Ras contributes to autoimmunity using experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), a mouse model of the CNS autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis. We found that a lack of R-Ras in peripheral immune cells resulted in attenuated EAE disease. Further investigation revealed that, during EAE, absence of R-Ras promoted the formation of MHC II(low) DC concomitant with a significant increase in proliferation of natural regulatory T cells, resulting in an increase in their cell numbers in the periphery. Our study suggests a novel role for R-Ras in promoting autoimmunity through negative regulation of natural regulatory T cell numbers by inhibiting the development of MHCII(low) DC with tolerogenic potential.