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Eur J Immunol. 2007 Jan;37(1):129-38.

Transient expression of FOXP3 in human activated nonregulatory CD4+ T cells.

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Department of Rheumatology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands.


Foxp3 plays a key role in CD4+ CD25+ T(reg) cell function in mice and represents a specific marker for these cells. Despite the strong association between FOXP3 expression and regulatory function in fresh human T cells, little is known about the dynamics of endogenous FOXP3 expression and its relation to the suppressive function in activated human T cells. Here, we addressed the dynamics of FOXP3 expression during human CD4+ T cell activation by plate-bound anti-CD3 Ab as well as the relationship between its expression and regulatory function at the single-cell level. Our data show that FOXP3 is expressed in a high percentage of activated T cells after in vitro stimulation of human CD4+ CD25- cells. FOXP3 expression is strongly associated with hyporesponsiveness of activated T cells, but is not directly correlated with their suppressive capabilities, as we demonstrate that it is also expressed in activated nonsuppressive T cells. However, in this nonsuppressive T cell population, FOXP3 expression is transient, while it is stably expressed in activated T cells that do display suppressive function, and in natural CD4+ CD25++ T(reg) cells. These data indicate that expression of endogenous FOXP3, in humans, is not sufficient to induce regulatory T cell activity or to identify T(reg) cells.

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