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Keywords:

  • CTLA-4;
  • interferon treatment;
  • multiple sclerosis;
  • regulatory T cells

Summary

Expression of the forkhead box protein 3 (FoxP3) transcription factor is regulated by the E3 ubiquitin ligases Itch and Cbl-b and induces regulatory activity CD4+CD25high T cells. Treatment with interferon (IFN)-β enhances regulatory T cell activity in multiple sclerosis (MS). We studied the phenotype of CD4+CD25high T cells in MS by flow cytometry and its relationship with expression of the FOXP3, ITCH and CBLB genes. We found that untreated MS patients had lower cell surface expression of cytotoxic T lymphocyte antigen 4 (CTLA-4) on CD4+CD25high T cells and higher intracellular CTLA-4 expression than healthy controls. Cell surface expression of CTLA-4 on CD4+CD25high T cells correlated with expression of FOXP3 mRNA in untreated patients and increased significantly with time from most recent injection in patients treated with IFN-β. FOXP3 mRNA expression correlated with CBLB and ITCH and T helper type 2 cytokine mRNA expression in MS patients. These data link expression of FOXP3, CBLB and ITCH mRNA and CTLA-4 expression on the surface of CD4+CD25high T cell in MS. We hypothesize that this may reflect alterations in the inhibitory effect of CTLA-4 or in regulatory T cell function.