Transcription Factor 7 Limits Regulatory T Cell Generation in the Thymus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Regulatory T cells (Tregs) differentiate in the thymus, but the mechanisms that control this process are not fully understood. We generated a comprehensive quantitative and differential proteome of murine Tregs and conventional T cells. We identified 5225 proteins, 164 of which were differentially expressed in Tregs. Together with the comparative analysis of proteome and gene expression data, we identified TCF7 as a promising candidate. Genetic elimination of transcription factor 7 (TCF7) led to increased fractions of Tregs in the thymus. Reduced levels of TCF7, found in the heterozygote, resulted in a greater potential for Treg precursors to differentiate into the Treg lineage. In contrast, activation of TCF7 through β-catenin had the opposite effect. TCF7 levels influenced the required TCR signaling strength of Treg precursors, and TCF7 deficiency broadened the repertoire and allowed lower TCR affinities to be recruited into the Treg lineage. FOXP3 was able to repress TCF7 protein expression. In summary, we propose a regulatory role for TCF7 in limiting access to the Treg lineage.


  • Melanie M Barra
  • David M Richards
  • Jenny Hansson
  • Ann-Cathrin Hofer
  • Michael Delacher
  • Jan Hettinger
  • Jeroen Krijgsveld
  • Markus Feuerer
External organisations
  • European Molecular Biology Laboratory Heidelberg
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Immunology in the medical area


  • Animals, Cell Lineage, Cell Proliferation, Forkhead Transcription Factors, Gene Expression Profiling, Hematopoiesis, Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 1-alpha, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Knockout, Proteome, Signal Transduction, T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory, Thymus Gland, beta Catenin
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3058-70
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Oct 1
Publication categoryResearch