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Immunology. 2014 Mar;141(3):467-81. doi: 10.1111/imm.12209.

Staphylococcus aureus convert neonatal conventional CD4(+) T cells into FOXP3(+) CD25(+) CD127(low) T cells via the PD-1/PD-L1 axis.

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  • 1Department of Rheumatology and Inflammation Research, The Sahlgrenska Academy at University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.


The gut microbiota provides an important stimulus for the induction of regulatory T (Treg) cells in mice, whether this applies to newborn children is unknown. In Swedish children, Staphylococcus aureus has become a common early colonizer of the gut. Here, we sought to study the effects of bacterial stimulation on neonatal CD4(+) T cells for the induction of CD25(+) CD127(low) Treg cells in vitro. The proportion of circulating CD25(+) CD127(low) Treg cells and their expression of FOXP3, Helios and CTLA-4 was examined in newborns and adults. To evaluate if commensal gut bacteria could induce Treg cells, CellTrace violet-stained non-Treg cells from cord or peripheral blood from adults were co-cultured with autologous CD25(+) CD127(low) Treg cells and remaining mononuclear cells and stimulated with S. aureus. Newborns had a significantly lower proportion of CD25(+) CD127(low) Treg cells than adults, but these cells were Helios(+) and CTLA-4(+) to a higher extent than in adults. FOXP3(+) CD25(+) CD127(low) T cells were induced mainly in neonatal CellTrace-stained non-Treg cells after stimulation with S. aureus. In cell cultures from adults, S. aureus induced CD25(+) CD127(low) T cells only if sorted naive CD45RA(+) non-Treg cells were used, but these cells expressed less FOXP3 than those induced from newborns. Sorted neonatal CD25(+) CD127(low) T cells from S. aureus-stimulated cultures were still suppressive. Finally, blocking PD-L1 during stimulation reduced the induction of FOXP3(+) CD25(+) CD127(low) T cells. These results suggest that newborns have a higher proportion of circulating thymically derived Helios(+) Treg cells than adults and that S. aureus possess an ability to convert neonatal conventional CD4(+) T cells into FOXP3(+) CD25(+) CD127(low) Treg cells via the PD-1/PD-L1 axis.

© 2013 The Authors. Immunology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


FOXP3+ regulatory T cells; Helios; Staphylococcus aureus; cord blood; programmed cell death 1

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