A structurally distinct TGF-β mimic from an intestinal helminth parasite potently induces regulatory T cells

Chris J. C. Johnston, Danielle J. Smyth, Ravindra B. Kodali, Madeleine P. J. White, Yvonne Harcus, Kara J. Filbey, James P. Hewitson, Cynthia S. Hinck, Alasdair Ivens, Andrea M. Kemter, Anna O. Kildemoes, Thierry Le Bihan, Dinesh C. Soares, Stephen M. Anderton, Thomas Brenn, Stephen J. Wigmore, Hannah V. Woodcock, Rachel C. Chambers, Andrew P. Hinck, Henry J. McSorleyRick M. Maizels (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

121 Citations (Scopus)
86 Downloads (Pure)


Helminth parasites defy immune exclusion through sophisticated evasion mechanisms, including activation of host immunosuppressive regulatory T (Treg) cells. The mouse parasite Heligmosomoides polygyrus can expand the host Treg population by secreting products that activate TGF-β signalling, but the identity of the active molecule is unknown. Here we identify an H. polygyrus TGF-β mimic (Hp-TGM) that replicates the biological and functional properties of TGF-β, including binding to mammalian TGF-β receptors and inducing mouse and human Foxp3+ Treg cells. Hp-TGM has no homology with mammalian TGF-β or other members of the TGF-β family, but is a member of the complement control protein superfamily. Thus, our data indicate that through convergent evolution, the parasite has acquired a protein with cytokine-like function that is able to exploit an endogenous pathway of immunoregulation in the host.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1741
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 23 Nov 2017


  • Immune evasion
  • Parasitic infection
  • Regulatory T cells
  • Transforming growth factor beta

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


Dive into the research topics of 'A structurally distinct TGF-β mimic from an intestinal helminth parasite potently induces regulatory T cells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this