Human CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ T regulatory cells (Tregs) control effector T cells and play a central role in peripheral tolerance and immune homeostasis. Heat shock protein 70 (HSP70) is a major immunomodulatory molecule, but its effect on the functions of Tregs is not well understood. To investigate target-dependent and -independent Treg functions, we studied cytokine expression, regulation of proliferation and cytotoxicity after exposure of Tregs to HSP70. HSP70-treated Tregs significantly inhibited proliferation of CD4+CD25- target cells and downregulated the secretion of the proinflammatory cytokines IFN-γ and TNF-α. By contrast, HSP70 increased the secretion of Treg suppressor cytokines IL-10 and TGF-β. Treatment with HSP70 enhanced the cytotoxic properties of Tregs only to a minor extent (4-fold), but led to stronger responses in CD4+CD25- cells (42-fold). HSP70-induced modulation of T-cell responses was further enhanced by combined treatment with HSP70 plus IL-2. Treatment of Tregs with HSP70 led to phosphorylation of PI3K/AKT and the MAPKs JNK and p38, but not that of ERK1/2. Exposure of Tregs to specific inhibitors of PI3K/AKT and the MAPKs JNK and p38 reduced the immunosuppressive function of HSP70-treated Tregs as indicated by the modified secretion of specific target cell (IFN-γ, TNF-α) and suppressor cytokines (IL-10, TGF-β). Taken together, the data show that HSP70 enhances the suppressive capacity of Tregs to neutralize target immune cells. Thus HSP70-enhanced suppression of Tregs may prevent exaggerated immune responses and may play a major role in maintaining immune homeostasis. © 2012 Wachstein et al.
Wachstein, J., Tischer, S., Figueiredo, C., Limbourg, A., Falk, C., Immenschuh, S., … Eiz-Vesper, B. (2012). HSP70 Enhances Immunosuppressive Function of CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ T Regulatory Cells and Cytotoxicity in CD4+CD25- T Cells. PLoS ONE, 7(12). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0051747