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Blood. 2003 Dec 1;102(12):4107-14. Epub 2003 Jul 31.

Human CD8+CD25+ thymocytes share phenotypic and functional features with CD4+CD25+ regulatory thymocytes.

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  • 1Dipartimento di Medicina Interna, Viale Morgagni 85, Firenze 50134, Italy.


CD8+CD25+ cells, which expressed high levels of Foxp3, glucocorticoid-induced tumor necrosis factor receptor (GITR), CCR8, tumor necrosis factor receptor 2 (TNFR2), and cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 (CTLA-4) mRNAs, were identified in the fibrous septa and medullary areas of human thymus. Activated CD8+CD25+ thymocytes did not produce cytokines, but most of them expressed surface CTLA-4 and transforming growth factor beta1 (TGF-beta1). Like CD4+CD25+, CD8+CD25+ thymocytes suppressed the proliferation of autologous CD25-T cells via a contact-dependent mechanism. The suppressive activity of CD8+CD25+ thymocytes was abrogated by a mixture of anti-CTLA-4 and anti-TGF-beta1 antibodies and it was mediated by their ability to inhibit the expression of the interleukin 2 receptor alpha chain on target T cells. These results demonstrate the existence of a subset of human CD8+CD25+ thymocytes sharing phenotype, functional features, and mechanism of action with CD4+CD25+ T regulatory cells.

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