TNF superfamily member 15 (TL1A) is the ligand for TNFR superfamily (TNFRSF)25. We previously reported that TNFRSF25 stimulation with an agonist Ab, 4C12, expands pre-existing CD4+Foxp3+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) in vivo. To determine how the physiological ligand differs from the Ab, we generated a soluble mouse TL1A-Ig fusion protein that forms a dimer of TL1A trimers in solution with an apparent molecular mass of 516 kDa. In vitro, TL1A-Ig mediated rapid proliferation of Foxp3+ Tregs and a population of CD4+Foxp3- conventional T cells. TL1A-Ig also blocked de novo biogenesis of inducible Tregs and it attenuated the suppressive function of Tregs. TNFRSF25 stimulation by TL1A-Ig in vivo induced expansion of Tregs such that they increased to 30-35% of all CD4+ T cells in the peripheral blood within 5 d of treatment. Treg proliferation in vivo was dependent on TCR engagement with MHC class II. Elevated Treg levels can be maintained for at least 20 d with daily injections of TL1A-Ig. TL1A-Ig-expanded Tregs expressed high levels of activation/memory markers KLRG1 and CD103 and were highly suppressive ex vivo. TL1A-Ig-mediated Treg expansion in vivo was protective against allergic lung inflammation, a mouse model for asthma, by reversing the ratio of conventional T cells to Tregs in the lung and blocking eosinophil exudation into the bronchoalveolar fluid. Thus, TL1A-Ig fusion proteins are highly active and tightly controllable agents to stimulate Treg proliferation in vivo, and they are uniquely able to maintain high levels of expanded Tregs by repeated administration.
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