Single and combined effect of retinoic acid and rapamycin modulate the generation, activity and homing potential of induced human regulatory T cells

Enzo Candia, Paz Reyes, Camila Covian, Francisco Rodriguez, Nicolas Wainstein, Jorge Morales, Claudio Mosso, Mario Rosemblatt, Juan Alberto Fierro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Adoptive transfer of CD4+CD25+FOXP3+ regulatory T cells (Treg cells) has been successfully utilized to treat graft versus host disease and represents a promising strategy for the treatment of autoimmune diseases and transplant rejection. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of all-trans retinoic acid (atRA) and rapamycin (RAPA) on the number, phenotype, homing markers expression, DNA methylation, and function of induced human Treg cells in short-term cultures. Naive T cells were polyclonally stimulated and cultured for five days in the presence of different combinations of IL-2, TGF-β1, atRA and RAPA. The resulting cells were characterized by the expression of FOXP3, activation, surface and homing markers. Methylation of the Conserved Non-coding Sequence 2 was also evaluated. Functional comparison of the different culture conditions was performed by suppression assays in vitro. Culturing naive human T cells with IL-2/TGFβ1 resulted in the generation of 54.2% of Treg cells (CD4+CD25+FOXP3+) whereas the addition of 100 nM atRA increased the yield of Treg cells to 66% (p = 0.0088). The addition of RAPA did not increase the number of Treg cells in any of these settings. Treg cells generated in the presence of atRA had an increased expression of the β7 integrin to nearly 100% of the generated Treg cells, while RAPA treated cells showed enhanced expression of CXCR4. The differential expression of homing molecules highlights the possibility of inducing Treg cells with differential organ-specific homing properties. Neither atRA nor RAPA had an effect on the highly methylated CNS2 sites, supporting reports that their contribution to the lineage stability of Treg cells is not mediated by methylation changes in this locus. Treg cells generated in the presence of RAPA show the most potent suppression effect on the proliferation of effector cells.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0182009
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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