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J Exp Med. 2006 Jul 10;203(7):1693-700. Epub 2006 Jul 3.

Expression of interleukin (IL)-2 and IL-7 receptors discriminates between human regulatory and activated T cells.

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  • 1Centenary Institute of Cancer Medicine and Cell Biology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Sydney, Newtown, NSW 2042, Australia.


Abnormalities in CD4(+)CD25(+)Foxp3(+) regulatory T (T reg) cells have been implicated in susceptibility to allergic, autoimmune, and immunoinflammatory conditions. However, phenotypic and functional assessment of human T reg cells has been hampered by difficulty in distinguishing between CD25-expressing activated and regulatory T cells. Here, we show that expression of CD127, the alpha chain of the interleukin-7 receptor, allows an unambiguous flow cytometry-based distinction to be made between CD127(lo) T reg cells and CD127(hi) conventional T cells within the CD25(+)CD45RO(+)RA(-) effector/memory and CD45RA(+)RO(-) naive compartments in peripheral blood and lymph node. In healthy volunteers, peripheral blood CD25(+)CD127(lo) cells comprised 6.35 +/- 0.26% of CD4(+) T cells, of which 2.05 +/- 0.14% expressed the naive subset marker CD45RA. Expression of FoxP3 protein and the CD127(lo) phenotype were highly correlated within the CD4(+)CD25(+) population. Moreover, both effector/memory and naive CD25(+)CD127(lo) cells manifested suppressive activity in vitro, whereas CD25(+)CD127(hi) cells did not. Cell surface expression of CD127 therefore allows accurate estimation of T reg cell numbers and isolation of pure populations for in vitro studies and should contribute to our understanding of regulatory abnormalities in immunopathic diseases.

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