Adoptive therapy with redirected primary regulatory T cells results in antigen-specific suppression of arthritis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • Graham P Wright
  • Clare A Notley
  • Shao-An Xue
  • Angelika Holler
  • Ton N Schumacher
  • Michael R Ehrenstein
  • Hans J Stauss

Colleges, School and Institutes


Regulatory T cells (Tregs) can suppress a wide range of immune cells, making them an ideal candidate for the treatment of autoimmunity. The potential clinical translation of targeted therapy with antigen-specific Tregs is hampered by the difficulties of isolating rare specificities from the natural polyclonal T cell repertoire. Moreover, the initiating antigen is often unknown in autoimmune disease. Here we tested the ability of antigen-specific Tregs generated by retroviral gene transfer to ameliorate arthritis through linked suppression and therefore without cognate recognition of the disease-initiating antigen. We explored two distinct strategies: T cell receptor (TCR) gene transfer into purified CD4+CD25+ T cells was used to redirect the specificity of naturally occurring Tregs; and co-transfer of FoxP3 and TCR genes served to convert conventional CD4(+) T cells into antigen-specific regulators. Following adoptive transfer into recipient mice, the gene-modified T cells engrafted efficiently and retained TCR and FoxP3 expression. Using an established arthritis model, we demonstrate antigen-driven accumulation of the gene modified T cells at the site of joint inflammation, which resulted in a local reduction in the number of inflammatory Th17 cells and a significant decrease in arthritic bone destruction. Together, we describe a robust strategy to rapidly generate antigen-specific regulatory T cells capable of highly targeted inhibition of tissue damage in the absence of systemic immune suppression. This opens the possibility to target Tregs to tissue-specific antigens for the treatment of autoimmune tissue damage without the knowledge of the disease-causing autoantigens recognized by pathogenic T cells.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19078-83
Number of pages6
JournalNational Academy of Sciences. Proceedings
Issue number45
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2009