Pim-2 Kinase Influences Regulatory T Cell Function and Stability by Mediating Foxp3 Protein N-terminal Phosphorylation.
Deng G., Nagai Y., Xiao Y., Li Z., Dai S., Ohtani T., Banham A., Li B., Wu S-L., Hancock W., Samanta A., Zhang H., Greene MI.
Regulation of the extent of immune responses is a requirement to maintain self-tolerance and limit inflammatory processes. CD4(+)CD25(+)Foxp3(+) regulatory T (Treg) cells play a role in regulation. The Foxp3 transcription factor is considered a dominant regulator for Treg cell development and function. Foxp3 function itself is directly regulated by multiple posttranslational modifications that occur in response to various external stimuli. The Foxp3 protein is a component of several dynamic macromolecular regulatory complexes. The complexes change constituents over time and through different signals to regulate the development and function of regulatory T cells. Here we identified a mechanism regulating Foxp3 level and activity that operates through discrete phosphorylation. The Pim-2 kinase can phosphorylate Foxp3, leading to decreased suppressive functions of Treg cells. The amino-terminal domain of Foxp3 is modified at several sites by Pim-2 kinase. This modification leads to altered expression of proteins related to Treg cell functions and increased Treg cell lineage stability. Treg cell suppressive function can be up-regulated by either pharmacologically inhibiting Pim-2 kinase activity or by genetically knocking out Pim-2 in rodent Treg cells. Deficiency of Pim-2 activity increases murine host resistance to dextran sodium sulfate-induced colitis in vivo, and a Pim-2 small molecule kinase inhibitor also modified Treg cell functions. Our studies define a pathway for limiting the regulation of Foxp3 function because the Pim-2 kinase represents a potential therapeutic target for modulating the Treg cell suppressive activities in controlling immune responses.