Retroviral Foxp3 gene transfer ameliorates liver granuloma pathology in Schistosoma mansoni infected mice


Dr D. L. Boros, WSU School of Medicine, 540 E. Canfield, Detroit, MI 48201 USA.
Senior author: Dr D. L. Boros


Schistosomiasis mansoni, a tropical helminthic disease, is caused by disseminated worm eggs that induce CD4+ T-cell mediated granulomatous inflammation and fibrosis. T suppressor cell activity has been proposed as one of the mechanisms active in the down-modulation of the murine disease during the chronic stage (16–20 weeks of the infection). In recent years a new category of the CD4+ CD25+ T regulatory (Treg) lymphocyte has been identified that maintains immune tolerance to self, and also functions in the regulation of parasite-induced immunopathology. The Foxp3 gene which encodes the transcription factor Scurfin was found to be expressed by and required for the generation of CD4+ CD25+ T reg. At 8 weeks of the infection Foxp3 gene expression of splenocytes was similar to that of naïve mice, but increased fourfold by 16 weeks. In contrast, granulomatous livers at 8 and 16 weeks showed 10- and 30-fold increases, respectively, in gene expression compared with normal liver. The percentage of granuloma CD4+ CD25+ T cells rose from 12% at 8 weeks to 88% at 16 weeks of the infection. Foxp3 expression was 3·5-fold higher in the CD4+ CD25+ versus the CD4+ CD25 T cells in the 8 week infection granulomas. As a novel observation neuropilin-1 membrane expression, a recently identified marker for Treg, was correlated with Foxp3 expression in the granuloma CD4+ CD25+ but not the CD25 cells. Co-incubation with polyclonal stimulation of CD4+ CD25+ splenic cells with CD4+ CD25 cells suppressed proliferation of the latter. Retroviral transfer of the Foxp3 gene at the onset of granuloma formation enhanced fourfold Foxp3 expression in the granuloma CD4+ CD25+ T cells and strongly suppressed full granuloma development. Gene transfer also significantly enhanced transforming growth factor-β, interferon-γ and interleukin-4 but not interleukin-10 expression. It is concluded, that CD4+ CD25+, Foxp3+ Treg cells also regulate schistosome egg-induced immunopathology.