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Journal of Transplantation
Volume 2011, Article ID 246856, 7 pages
Research Article

The Alpha-Melanocyte Stimulating Hormone Induces Conversion of Effector T Cells into Treg Cells

Department of Ophthalmology, Boston University School of Medicine, 72 East Concord Street, Boston, MA 02118, USA

Received 28 February 2011; Revised 20 June 2011; Accepted 4 July 2011

Academic Editor: Aruna V. Vanikar

Copyright © 2011 Andrew W. Taylor and Darren J. Lee. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The neuropeptide alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone ( -MSH) has an important role in modulating immunity and homeostasis. The production of IFN- by effector T cells is suppressed by -MSH, while TGF- production is promoted in the same cells. Such -MSH-treated T cells have immune regulatory activity and suppress hypersensitivity, autoimmune diseases, and graft rejection. Previous characterizations of the -MSH-induced Treg cells showed that the cells are T cells expressing the same levels of CD25 as effector T cells. Therefore, we further analyzed the -MSH-induced Treg cells for expression of effector and regulatory T-cell markers. Also, we examined the potential for -MSH-induced Treg cells to be from the effector T-cell population. We found that the -MSH-induced Treg cells are T cells that share similar surface markers as effector T cells, except that they express on their surface LAP. Also, the -MSH treatment augments FoxP3 message in the effector T cells, and -MSH induction of regulatory activity was limited to the effector T-cell population. Therefore, -MSH converts effector T cells into Treg cells, which suppress immunity targeting specific antigens and tissues.