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PLoS One. 2019 Jan 16;14(1):e0210839. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0210839. eCollection 2019.

Identification and functional characterization of CD8+ T regulatory cells in type 1 diabetes patients.

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Infectivology and Clinical Trials Research Division, Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital, Rome, Italy.
Endocrinology Department, Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital, Rome, Italy.
Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital, Research Laboratories, Rome, Italy.


Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where autoreactive T lymphocytes destroy pancreatic beta cells. We previously reported a defect in CD4+ Tregs cell proliferation and reduced CD4+ Tregs PD-1 expression in patients. Another 'memory-like' regulatory subset, CD8+ Tregs, evaluated as CD8+CD25+FOXP3+, has recently raised interest for their effective suppressive activity. Different CD8+ T cell populations, their proliferation capacity and expression of PD-1 molecule were evaluated by flow-cytometer analysis in newly diagnosed, long-term Type 1 diabetes patients compared to healthy normal donors. Under basal conditions, CD8+ Tregs and CD8+ Teffs were seemingly represented among study groups while there was evidence of diminished expression of PD-1 in Teff subsets of long-term patients. After 3 days of PMA/ionomycin stimulation, patients CD8+ Tregs showed decreased percentage in respect to control group. CD8+ Teffs were instead increased in long-term diabetics versus controls. PD-1+CD8+ Tregs were represented at a much lower percentage in long-term diabetic patients, in respect to controls. Importantly, patients CD8+ Tregs and CD8+ Teffs presented a significant proliferation defect in respect to the control group. In conclusion, our study indicates that a defect of CD8+ Tregs is observed in diabetics. This subset could thus represent a novel target of immunotherapy in patients.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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