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Eur J Immunol. 2007 Dec;37(12):3445-54.

Characterization of mouse CD4 T cell subsets defined by expression of KLRG1.

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University of Würzburg, Institute for Virology and Immunobiology, Würzburg, Germany.


The mouse killer cell lectin-like receptor G1 (KLRG1) is an inhibitory receptor known to be expressed on a subset of NK cells and antigen-experienced CD8 T cells. Here, we have characterized expression of KLRG1 on CD4+ T cells from normal mice. While a polyclonal TCR repertoire suggests thymic origin of KLRG1+ CD4+ cells, KLRG1 expression was found to be restricted to peripheral CD4+ T cells. Based on phenotypic analyses, a minority of KLRG1+ CD4+ cells are effector/memory cells with a proliferative history. The majority of KLRG1+ CD4+ cells are, however, bona fide Treg cells that depend on IL-2 and/or CD28 and express both FoxP3 and high levels of intracellular CD152. KLRG1-expressing Treg are contained within the CD38+ subset but are only partially overlapping with the CD25+ CD4+ Treg subset. In functional assays, KLRG1+ CD4+ cells were anergic to TCR stimulation with respect to proliferation, and sorted KLRG1+ CD25+ CD4+ cells were equal or superior to KLRG1+ CD25- CD4+ cells, which were more potent than KLRG1- CD25+ CD4+ cells in suppressing responder cell proliferation. Together, our results demonstrate that KLRG1 expression defines novel and distinctive subsets of senescent effector/memory and potent regulatory CD4+ T cells.

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