Plasticity of Naturally Occurring Regulatory T Cells in Allergic Airway Disease Is Modulated by the Transcriptional Activity of Il-6

The impact of naturally occurring regulatory T cells (nTregs) on the suppression or induction of lung allergic responses in mice depends on the nuclear environment and the production of the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin 6 (IL-6). These activities were shown to be different in nTregs derived from wild-type (WT) and CD8-deficient mice (CD8-/-), with increased IL-6 levels in nTregs from CD8-/- mice in comparison to WT nTregs. Thus, identification of the molecular mechanisms regulating IL-6 production is critical to understanding the phenotypic plasticity of nTregs. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSA) were performed to determine transcription factor binding to four Il-6 promoter loci using nuclear extracts from nTregs of WT and CD8-/- mice. Increased transcription factor binding for each of the Il-6 loci was identified in CD8-/- compared to WT nTregs. The impact of transcription factor binding and a novel short tandem repeat (STR) on Il-6 promoter activity was analyzed by luciferase reporter assays. The Il-6 promoter regions closer to the transcription start site (TSS) were more relevant to the regulation of Il-6 depending on NF-κB, c-Fos, and SP and USF family members. Two Il-6 promoter loci were most critical for the inducibility by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα). A novel STR of variable length in the Il-6 promoter was identified with diverging prevalence in nTregs from WT or CD8-/- mice. The predominant GT repeat in CD8-/- nTregs revealed the highest luciferase activity. These novel regulatory mechanisms controlling the transcriptional regulation of the Il-6 promoter are proposed to contribute to nTregs plasticity and may be central to disease pathogenesis.

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