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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.

Original publication




Journal article


J Biol Chem

Publication Date





20211 - 20220


Foxp3, Pim2 kinase, autoimmunity, colitis, immunosuppression, phosphorylation, posttranslational modification (PTM), regulatory T cell, Amino Acid Sequence, Animals, Mice, Mice, Knockout, Molecular Sequence Data, Phosphorylation, Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases, Proto-Oncogene Proteins, T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory