Epigenetically modifying the Foxp3 locus for generation of stable antigen-specific Tregs as cellular therapeutics

Shuqiu Chen, Lei Zhang, Yuanlin Ying, Yixuan Wang, Preston R. Arnold, Guangchuan Wang, Junhui Li, Rafik M. Ghobrial, Wenhao Chen, Xiang Xiao, Xian C. Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Foxp3+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) are potent immunoregulatory cells, prompting strong interests in manipulating them for therapeutic purposes. However, significant challenges remain, including their heterogeneity and functional instability. Here we focused on the inducible Tregs (iTregs) and studied whether the Foxp3 locus can be epigenetically edited ex vivo to produce stable therapeutic iTregs. Under iTreg-inducing condition where activated CD4+ T effector cells were converted to Foxp3+ Tregs, we tested approximately 30 compounds and identified 3 chromatin-modifying chemical compounds (3C) consisting of sodium butyrate (a broad histone deacetylase inhibitor), UNC0646 (a histone methyltransferase inhibitor), and vitamin C (a TET dioxygenase co-activator), that together produced complete demethylation at the conserved noncoding sequence 2 (CNS2) region of Foxp3 locus. We found that iTregs induced in the presence of 3C (3C-iTregs) are stable, even after exposure to inflammatory cytokines. They expressed high levels of Foxp3 and exhibited potent suppressive activities both in vitro and in vivo. We showed that in models of autoimmunity and transplant rejection, adoptive transfer of antigen-specific 3C-iTregs prevented the induction of experimental autoimmune encephalitis and enabled long-term skin allograft survival. Our data demonstrate that the Foxp3 locus can be epigenetically edited ex vivo to generate stable therapeutic iTregs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2366-2379
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Journal of Transplantation
Volume20
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

Keywords

  • T cell biology
  • basic (laboratory) research/science
  • immune regulation
  • immunosuppression/immune modulation
  • organ transplant in general

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Transplantation
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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