The molecular identification of FoxP3 +ve regulatory T cells [ 2006 - 2008 ]

Also known as: What are the genes controlling the T cell regulatory phenotype?

Research Grant

[Cite as]

Researchers: Prof Simon Barry (Principal investigator) ,  Prof Frances Shannon Prof Heddy Zola Prof Richard D'Andrea

Brief description The immune system has a series of checks and balances in place to distinguish foreign bodies from normal, or self-antigens. In healthy individuals this prevents the immune system from attacking the cells and tissues of the body, food proteins, and the beneficial bacteria of the gut. However in autoimmune disease the system becomes imbalanced, allowing reactions to benign antigens, causing diseases such as diabetes, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. One of the key players in the maintenance of a healthy immune system is a specialized set of T cells known as T Regulatory cells. These cells are rare, at 1-4% of all T cells, yet are potent modulators of other T cells, and can prevent the activation of a T cell if it is reacting to a self-antigen. If they can control the cause of autoimmune disease, and patient Treg cells can be manipulated, it may be possible to use them therapeutically. Recently the switch that is required to generate regulatory cells was identified from patients with a rare autoimmune disease called Immunodysregulation, polyendocrynopathy, enteropathy, X-linked syndrome or IPEX. A mouse disease, Scurfy, with similar symptoms, is caused by the same mutations. The mutated gene encodes a protein, FoxP3, and this protein is able to bind to other genes in T cells and regulate their function. Without this protein, there are no T regulatory cells, resulting in autoimmune disorders. At this time there is very little known about how the FoxP3 gene is able to make a T cell become a regulatory T cell, and nothing is known about the genes that are turned off and on to facilitate this. If we can understand better the role of this protein, FoxP3, in the generation and maintenance of T cells with regulatory function, we may better be able to diagnose and treat autoimmune diseases, and this knowledge will have broad application to many autoimmune disorders.

Funding Amount $AUD 483,273.48

Funding Scheme NHMRC Project Grants

Notes Standard Project Grant

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