Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) has been shown to play an essential role in the suppression of inflammation, yet recent studies have revealed the positive roles of TGF-β in inflammatory responses. For example, TGF-β induces Foxp3-positive regulatory T cells (iTregs) in the presence of interleukin-2 (IL-2), while in the presence of IL-6, it induces pathogenic IL-17 producing Th17 cells. TGF-β inhibits the proliferation of immune cells as well as cytokine production via Foxp3-dependent and -independent mechanisms. Little is known about molecular mechanisms involved in immune suppression via TGF-β; however, Smad2/3 have been shown to play essential roles in Foxp3 induction as well as in IL-2 and IFN-γ suppression, whereas Th17 differentiation is promoted via the Smad-independent pathway. Interaction between TGF-β and other cytokine signaling is important in establishing the balance of immunity and tolerance.
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