Identifying Foxp3-expressing suppressor T cells with a bicistronic reporter.
Regulatory T cells are critical for maintaining self-tolerance and to negatively regulate immune responses. Foxp3 is a regulatory T cell-specific transcription factor that functions as the master regulator of the development and function of regulatory T cells. Here, we report the generation of a mouse model, in which a bicistronic reporter expressing a red fluorescent protein has been knocked into the endogenous Foxp3 locus. Using this mouse model, we assessed Foxp3 expression in various lymphocyte compartments and identified previously unreported Foxp3-expressing cells. In addition, we showed that de novo Foxp3 expression along with suppressive function were induced by TGF-beta in activated CD4 T cells in vitro. Finally, we demonstrated that non-Foxp3-expressing CD4 T cells could not be converted into Foxp3-expressing cells upon adoptive transfer into immunodeficient hosts. This Foxp3 bicistronic reporter knockin mouse model should greatly enhance the study of regulation and function of Foxp3-expressing regulatory T cells.