Journal of Autoimmunity vol:25 issue:2 pages:112-120
CD25+CD4+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) contribute to the maintenance of peripheral tolerance against self and non-self. The modulatory effects of cytokines, such as interleukin 4 (IL-4) on the function of Tregs have not been explored in detail. We here report that IL-4 prevents spontaneous apoptosis and the decline of foxp3 mRNA which were found to occur during culture of isolated Tregs. Tregs exposed to IL-4 were more potent in suppressing the proliferation of naïve CD4+ T cells and they better inhibited IFN-gamma production by CD4+ T cells as compared to Tregs cultured in medium. IL-4 also enhanced membrane IL-2Ralpha (CD25) expression on Tregs above the levels observed on freshly isolated cells. IL-4-mediated effects on Treg function persisted in Tregs from Stat6-/- mice, pointing to a Stat6-independent intracellular transduction pathway. In conclusion, our data suggest that the anti-inflammatory function of IL-4 could partly be mediated by effects on Tregs function.