IL-2 and IL-15 drive intrathymic development of distinct periphery-seeding CD4+Foxp3+ regulatory T lymphocytes
Apert C., Galindo-Albarrán AO., Castan S., Detraves C., Michaud H., McJannett N., Haegeman B., Fillatreau S., Malissen B., Holländer G., Žuklys S., Santamaria JC., Joffre OP., Romagnoli P., van Meerwijk JPM.
Development of Foxp3-expressing regulatory T-lymphocytes (Treg) in the thymus is controlled by signals delivered in T-cell precursors via the TCR, co-stimulatory receptors, and cytokine receptors. In absence of IL-2, IL-15 or their receptors, fewer Treg apparently develop in the thymus. However, it was recently shown that a substantial part of thymic Treg are cells that had recirculated from the periphery back to the thymus, troubling interpretation of these results. We therefore reassessed the involvement of IL-2 and IL-15 in the development of Treg, taking into account Treg-recirculation. At the age of three weeks, when in wt and IL-15-deficient (but not in IL-2-deficient) mice substantial amounts of recirculating Treg are present in the thymus, we found similarly reduced proportions of newly developed Treg in absence of IL-2 or IL-15, and in absence of both cytokines even less Treg developed. In neonates, when practically no recirculating Treg were found in the thymus, the absence of IL-2 led to substantially more reduced Treg-development than deficiency in IL-15. IL-2 but not IL-15 modulated the CD25, GITR, OX40, and CD73-phenotypes of the thymus-egress-competent and periphery-seeding Treg-population. Interestingly, IL-2 and IL-15 also modulated the TCR-repertoire expressed by developing Treg. Upon transfer into Treg-less Foxp3sf mice, newly developed Treg from IL-2- (and to a much lesser extent IL-15-) deficient mice suppressed immunopathology less efficiently than wt Treg. Taken together, our results firmly establish important non-redundant quantitative and qualitative roles for IL-2 and, to a lesser extent, IL-15 in intrathymic Treg-development.