Several reports have suggested that natural regulatory T cells (Tregs) lose Forkhead box P3 (Foxp3) expression and suppression activity under certain inflammatory conditions. Treg plasticity has been studied because it may be associated with the pathogenesis of autoimmunity. Some studies showed that a minor uncommitted Foxp3+ T cell population, which lacks hypomethylation at Treg-specific demethylation regions (TSDRs), may convert to effector/helper T cells. Suppressor of cytokine signaling 1 (SOCS1), a negative regulator of cytokine signaling, has been reported to play an important role in Treg cell integrity and function by protecting the cells from excessive inflammatory cytokines. In this review, we discuss Treg plasticity and maintenance of suppression functions in both physiological and pathological settings. In addition, we discuss molecular mechanisms of maintaining Treg plasticity by SOCS1 and other molecules. Such information will be useful for therapy of autoimmune diseases and reinforcement of antitumor immunity.
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