T helper type 1 (Th1) cells form one of the most stable CD4 T-cell subsets, and direct conversion of fully differentiated Th1 to regulatory T (Treg) cells has been poorly investigated. Here, we established a culture method for inducing Foxp3 from Th1 cells of mice and humans. This is achieved simply by resting Th1 cells without T-cell receptor ligation before stimulation in the presence of transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-ß). We named the resulting Th1-derived Foxp3+ cells Th1reg cells. Mouse Th1reg cells showed an inducible Treg-like phenotype and suppressive ability both in vitro and in vivo. Th1reg cells could also be induced from in vivo-developed mouse Th1 cells. Unexpectedly, the resting process enabled Foxp3 expression not through epigenetic changes at the locus, but through metabolic change resulting from reduced mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) activity. mTORC1 suppressed TGF-ß-induced phosphorylation of Smad2/3 in Th1 cells, which was restored in rested cells. Our study warrants future research aiming at development of immunotherapy with Th1reg cells.
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