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J Immunol. 2010 Jul 1;185(1):134-43. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0803474. Epub 2010 May 24.

High expression of the ectonucleotidase CD39 on T cells from the inflamed site identifies two distinct populations, one regulatory and one memory T cell population.

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Rheumatology Unit, University College London, London, United Kingdom.


The ectonucleotidase CD39 has recently been described as being highly expressed on regulatory Foxp3(+) CD4 T cells. Through hydrolysis of proinflammatory extracellular ATP, CD39 activity represents a newly described mechanism of regulatory T cell action. We report a novel population of human CD4 T cells that express CD39 yet are Foxp3 negative. These cells produce the proinflammatory cytokines IFN-gamma and IL-17 and fail to suppress proliferation; however, they still have high ATP hydrolysis activity. In the inflammatory site in human juvenile idiopathic arthritis, the CD39(+)Foxp3(-) population is greatly increased compared with peripheral blood of patients or healthy controls. We also show that cells expressing the AMPase CD73 are less frequent in the joint than in blood. To our knowledge, this is the first study to describe and characterize CD39 function on CD4 T cells from the target site in a human autoinflammatory condition. Our data suggest that in human CD4(+) T cells from the inflamed site, CD39 can be highly expressed on two populations, one regulatory and the other of a memory phenotype.

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