IMMUNOLOGY: A Regulatory Effect of Tax

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Science  27 May 2005:
Vol. 308, Issue 5726, pp. 1229b
DOI: 10.1126/science.308.5726.1229b

Regulatory T (T-reg) cells are central moderators of the immune system, restraining overexuberant T cells and those that have a tendency to react against the body's own components. Consequently, perturbing the function of T-reg cells could have deleterious effects on the health of an individual.

Yamano et al. have extended previous observations that T-reg cells represent a preferential reservoir for the human T cell lymphotrophic virus (HTLV-1) in infected individuals. These patients develop an immunity-based neurologic disease, in which large numbers of virus-specific CD8+ cytotoxic T cells invade the central nervous system. Virus-infected T-reg cells were severely diminished in their ability to suppress T cell responses and in the expression of the transcription factor Foxp3. These deficits were traced to the expression of a viral transcriptional repressor, Tax, and could be recapitulated by transfecting the tax gene into uninfected T-reg cells. Although some autoimmune effects have been reported in this group of HTLV-1 patients, it is interesting that such a profound T-reg cell defect does not appear to result in a broader impairment of normal immune function. — SJS

J. Clin. Invest. 115, 1361 (2005).

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