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J Histochem Cytochem. 2007 Sep;55(9):891-8. Epub 2007 May 3.

Immunohistochemical analysis of regulatory T cell markers FOXP3 and GITR on CD4+CD25+ T cells in normal skin and inflammatory dermatoses.

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Department of Pathology, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Regulatory T cells (Treg) are a subset of T lymphocytes that play a central role in immunologic tolerance and in the termination of immune responses. The identification of these cells in normal and inflammatory conditions may contribute to a better understanding of underlying pathology. We investigated the expression of FOXP3 and GITR in normal skin and in a panel of different inflammatory dermatoses. Immunohistochemical double stainings in skin tissue sections revealed that FOXP3 and GITR were almost exclusively present on T cells that express both CD4 and CD25. Further, immunohistochemical double staining, as well as fluorescence-activated cell sorter analysis, on peripheral blood T cells showed that most FOXP3(+) cells expressed GITR and vice versa, whereas a minority were single-positive for these markers. The mean frequency of FOXP3(+) T cells in spongiotic dermatitis, psoriasis, and lichen planus was in the same range (25-29%), but the frequency of these cells in leishmaniasis appeared to be lower (approximately 15%), although this was not statistically significant. The mean frequency of GITR(+) T cells was fairly similar in all conditions studied (14-20%). Normal human skin also contained FOXP3(+) and GITR(+) cells in the same frequency range as in diseased skin, but the absolute numbers were, of course, much lower. In conclusion, frequencies of FOXP3(+) and GITR(+) T cells were similar in all inflammatory skin diseases studied and normal skin, despite the well-known differences among the inflammatory conditions under investigation.

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