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J Immunol. 2012 Dec 15;189(12):5590-601. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1201744. Epub 2012 Nov 14.

Human prostate tumor antigen-specific CD8+ regulatory T cells are inhibited by CTLA-4 or IL-35 blockade.

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University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center, Madison, WI 53705, USA.


Regulatory T cells play important roles in cancer development and progression by limiting the generation of innate and adaptive anti-tumor immunity. We hypothesized that in addition to natural CD4(+)CD25(+) regulatory T cells (Tregs) and myeloid-derived suppressor cells, tumor Ag-specific Tregs interfere with the detection of anti-tumor immunity after immunotherapy. Using samples from prostate cancer patients immunized with a DNA vaccine encoding prostatic acid phosphatase (PAP) and a trans-vivo delayed-type hypersensitivity (tvDTH) assay, we found that the detection of PAP-specific effector responses after immunization was prevented by the activity of PAP-specific regulatory cells. These regulatory cells were CD8(+)CTLA-4(+), and their suppression was relieved by blockade of CTLA-4, but not IL-10 or TGF-β. Moreover, Ag-specific CD8(+) Tregs were detected prior to immunization in the absence of PAP-specific effector responses. These PAP-specific CD8(+)CTLA-4(+) suppressor T cells expressed IL-35, which was decreased after blockade of CTLA-4, and inhibition of either CTLA-4 or IL-35 reversed PAP-specific suppression of tvDTH response. PAP-specific CD8(+)CTLA-4(+) T cells also suppressed T cell proliferation in an IL-35-dependent, contact-independent fashion. Taken together, these findings suggest a novel population of CD8(+)CTLA-4(+) IL-35-secreting tumor Ag-specific Tregs arise spontaneously in some prostate cancer patients, persist during immunization, and can prevent the detection of Ag-specific effector responses by an IL-35-dependent mechanism.

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