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Programmed death one homolog maintains the pool size of regulatory T cells by promoting their differentiation and stability

Wang, Q;He, J;Flies, DB;Luo, L;Chen, L;

Programmed death one homolog (PD-1H) is an immunoglobulin superfamily molecule and primarily acts as a coinhibitor in the initiation of T cell response to antigens. Here, we report that genetic ablation of PD-1H in mice blocks the differentiation of naive T cells to Foxp3(+) inducible Treg cells (iTreg) with a significant decrease of iTreg in lymphoid organs. This effect of PD-1H is highly specific for iTreg because both naturally generated iTreg in gut-related tissues and in vitro induced iTreg by TGF- were decreased whereas the genesis of natural Treg (nTreg) remains normal. The suppressive function of both iTreg and nTreg, however, is not affected by the loss of PD-1H. In addition to decreased production, PD-1H deficient iTreg could also rapidly convert to CD4(+) T helper 1 or T helper 17 cells in an inflammatory environment. Our results indicate that PD-1H is required for maintenance of iTreg pool size by promoting its differentiation and preventing its conversion to other CD4(+) T cell subsets. These findings may have important implications for manipulating Tregs to control inflammation.