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Foxp3 plays an important role in the development and the function of regulatory T cells (Treg). Both the induction and maintenance of Foxp3 gene expression are controlled by several regulatory regions including two enhancers in the conserved noncoding sequences (CNS). The functions of Enhancer 1 in CNS1 are well established, whereas those of Enhancer 2 in CNS2 remain unclear. Although CNS2 contains enhancer activity, methylated CpG sequences in this region prevent Foxp3 gene expression in Foxp3(-) T cells. These sequences are, however, demethylated in Foxp3(+) Treg by mechanisms as yet unknown. To investigate the role of CNS2, we have determined the Enhancer 2 core sequence by luciferase reporter assays in the absence of methylation to exclude the inhibitory effect and shown that transcription factors AP-1, Stat5, and Creb cooperate in regulating Enhancer 2 activity. We have then determined the methylation sensitivity of each of the transcription factors. AP-1 was found to be methylation sensitive as has previously been described for Creb. However, Stat5 was active even when its binding site in CNS2 was methylated. Stat5 binding to Enhancer 2 occurred early and preceded that of AP-1 and Creb during Treg induction. In addition, Stat5 activation is itself dependent on TGF-β signaling through Smad3-mediated blockade of Socs3 expression. These findings suggest that Stat5 is a key regulator for opening up the CNS2 region during induced Treg induction, whereas AP-1 and Creb maintain Enhancer 2 activity.

Original publication




Journal article


J Immunol

Publication Date





475 - 483


Acetylation, Animals, Base Sequence, Binding Sites, Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein, Enhancer Elements, Genetic, Forkhead Transcription Factors, Gene Expression Regulation, Histones, Mice, Molecular Sequence Data, Regulatory Sequences, Nucleic Acid, STAT5 Transcription Factor, T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory, Transcription Factor AP-1, Transforming Growth Factor beta