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J Immunol Methods. 2009 Jul 31;346(1-2):55-63. doi: 10.1016/j.jim.2009.05.004. Epub 2009 May 18.

Isolation of functional human regulatory T cells (Treg) from the peripheral blood based on the CD39 expression.

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Department of Pathology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.


Human regulatory T cells (Treg) have been variously defined as CD4(+)CD25(+), CD4(+)CD25(high) or CD4(+)CD25(high)FOXP3(+) cells which are responsible for maintaining peripheral tolerance. Their isolation from human peripheral blood or tissues depends on the expression level of CD25(IL-2Ralpha) - a surface marker which is also expressed on activated effector helper T cells. CD39, a cell surface associated ectonucleotidase, can be used to purify Treg with strong suppressor functions. The CD4(+)CD39(+) T cells catalyze cleavage of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to adenosine monophosphate (AMP), which is then further cleaved to adenosine. CD4(+)CD39(+) T cells largely overlap with CD4(+)CD25(high)FOXP3(+) but not CD4(+)CD25(+) T cell subset, and mediate equally potent immune suppression. Thus, CD39 surface marker can be successfully used for routine isolation of functionally-active human Treg from the peripheral blood of healthy donors or patients with cancer for studies of their role in health and disease.

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