Disruption of FOXP3–EZH2 Interaction Represents a Pathobiological Mechanism in Intestinal Inflammation

Adebowale O. Bamidele, Phyllis A. Svingen, Mary R. Sagstetter, Olga F. Sarmento, Michelle Gonzalez, Manuel B. Braga Neto, Subra Kugathasan, Gwen Lomberk, Raul A. Urrutia, William A. Faubion

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background & Aims: Forkhead box protein 3 (FOXP3) + regulatory T cell (Treg) dysfunction is associated with autoimmune diseases; however, the mechanisms responsible for inflammatory bowel disease pathophysiology are poorly understood. Here, we tested the hypothesis that a physical interaction between transcription factor FOXP3 and the epigenetic enzyme enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2) is essential for gene co-repressive function. Methods: Human FOXP3 mutations clinically relevant to intestinal inflammation were generated by site-directed mutagenesis. T lymphocytes were isolated from mice, human blood, and lamina propria of Crohn's disease (CD) patients and non-CD controls. We performed proximity ligation or a co-immunoprecipitation assay in FOXP3-mutant + , interleukin 6 (IL6)-treated or CD-CD4 + T cells to assess FOXP3–EZH2 protein interaction. We studied IL2 promoter activity and chromatin state of the interferon γ locus via luciferase reporter and chromatin-immunoprecipitation assays, respectively, in cells expressing FOXP3 mutants. Results: EZH2 binding was abrogated by inflammatory bowel disease–associated FOXP3 cysteine 232 (C232) mutation. The C232 mutant showed impaired repression of IL2 and diminished EZH2-mediated trimethylation of histone 3 at lysine 27 on interferon γ, indicative of compromised Treg physiologic function. Generalizing this mechanism, IL6 impaired FOXP3–EZH2 interaction. IL6-induced effects were reversed by Janus kinase 1/2 inhibition. In lamina propria–derived CD4 + T cells from CD patients, we observed decreased FOXP3–EZH2 interaction. Conclusions: FOXP3–C232 mutation disrupts EZH2 recruitment and gene co-repressive function. The proinflammatory cytokine IL6 abrogates FOXP3–EZH2 interaction. Studies in lesion-derived CD4 + T cells have shown that reduced FOXP3–EZH2 interaction is a molecular feature of CD patients. Destabilized FOXP3–EZH2 protein interaction via diverse mechanisms and consequent Treg abnormality may drive gastrointestinal inflammation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-71
Number of pages17
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019


  • Crohn's Disease
  • Epigenetics
  • Proinflammatory Cytokine
  • Regulatory T Cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


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