Regulatory CD4+ Foxp3+ T cells (Tregs) are critical in controlling immunity and tolerance. Thus, preserving Treg numbers and function in transplanted patients is essential for the successful minimization of maintenance immunosuppression. Multiple cellular signals control the development, differentiation and function of Tregs. Many of these signals are shared with conventional Foxp3- T cells (Tconv) and are targeted by immunosuppressive drugs, negatively affecting both Tregs and Tconv. Because intracellular signals vary in optimal intensity in different T cell subsets, improved specificity in immunosuppressive regimens must occur to benefit long-term transplant outcomes. In this regard, recent advances are gradually uncovering differences in the signals required in Tregs and Tconv biology, opening the door to new potential therapeutic approaches to either enhance or spare Tregs. In this review, we will explain the prominent cell signaling pathways critical for Treg maintenance and function, while reporting the effects of immunosuppressive drugs targeting these signaling pathways in clinical transplantation settings.
Am J Transplant. 2016 Sep 1. doi: 10.1111/ajt.14029. [Epub ahead of print]