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J Exp Med. 2001 Jun 4;193(11):1303-10.

Ex vivo isolation and characterization of CD4(+)CD25(+) T cells with regulatory properties from human blood.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Hartmannstrasse 14, 91052 Erlangen, Germany.


It has been known for years that rodents harbor a unique population of CD4(+)CD25(+) "professional" regulatory/suppressor T cells that is crucial for the prevention of spontaneous autoimmune diseases. Here we demonstrate that CD4(+)CD25(+)CD45RO(+) T cells (mean 6% of CD4(+) T cells) are present in the blood of adult healthy volunteers. In contrast to previous reports, these CD4(+)CD25(+) T cells do not constitute conventional memory cells but rather regulatory cells exhibiting properties identical to their rodent counterparts. Cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen (CTLA)-4 (CD152), for example, which is essential for the in vivo suppressive activity of CD4(+)CD25(+) T cells, was constitutively expressed, and remained strongly upregulated after stimulation. The cells were nonproliferative to stimulation via their T cell receptor for antigen, but the anergic state was partially reversed by interleukin (IL)-2 and IL-15. Upon stimulation with allogeneic (but not syngeneic) mature dendritic cells or platebound anti-CD3 plus anti-CD28 the CD4(+)CD25(+) T cells released IL-10, and in coculture experiments suppressed the activation and proliferation of CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells. Suppression proved IL-10 independent, yet contact dependent as in the mouse. The identification of regulatory CD4(+)CD25(+) T cells has important implications for the study of tolerance in man, notably in the context of autoimmunity, transplantation, and cancer.

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