Atopic dermatitis (AD) is one of the most common inflammatory skin diseases, with an increasing incidence in clinical practice. AD models have demonstrated that TGF-β signaling is compromised in regulatory T cells (Tregs).
This study aimed to investigate the TGF-β-dependent in vitro conversion of CD4+CD25- T cells derived from AD-patients into CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ induced Tregs (iTregs) in comparison to healthy controls.
To analyze in vitro iTreg conversion, human CD4+CD25- T cells were cultured on anti-CD3-coated plates in the presence of TGF-β and IL-2 for up to 3 days. Consequently, the underlying mechanism of impaired CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ iTreg generation was explored by focusing on TGF-β signaling. Finally, the functionality of iTregs was investigated.
Conversion of CD4+CD25-Foxp3- into CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ iTregs was diminished in AD individuals. Impaired iTreg generation was accompanied by a reduced surface expression of GARP (glycoprotein A repetitions predominant), a marker for activated Tregs. A reduced expression of Smad3 mRNA was revealed in CD4+CD25- T cells. Interestingly, the suppressive quality of iTregs was found to be equal in cells derived from AD and healthy donors.
The signaling effect of TGF-β receptors on the suppressor quality of iTreg conversion is conserved. Impaired iTreg generation might be a reason for the lack of immune suppression in AD patients and contributes to the chronicity of the disease.

© 2020 S. Karger AG, Basel.