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J Immunol. 2001 Aug 1;167(3):1245-53.

CD4+CD25high regulatory cells in human peripheral blood.

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Laboratory of Molecular Immunology, Center for Neurologic Diseases, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115.


Thymectomy in mice on neonatal day 3 leads to the development of multiorgan autoimmune disease due to loss of a CD(+)CD25(+) T cell regulatory population in their peripheral lymphoid tissues. Here, we report the identification of a CD4(+) population of regulatory T cells in the circulation of humans expressing high levels of CD25 that exhibit in vitro characteristics identical with those of the CD4(+)CD25(+) regulatory cells isolated in mice. With TCR cross-linking, CD4(+)CD25(high) cells did not proliferate but instead totally inhibited proliferation and cytokine secretion by activated CD4(+)CD25(-) responder T cells in a contact-dependent manner. The CD4(+)CD25(high) regulatory T cells expressed high levels of CD45RO but not CD45RA, akin to the expression of CD45RB(low) on murine CD4(+)CD25(+) regulatory cells. Increasing the strength of signal by providing either costimulation with CD28 cross-linking or the addition of IL-2 to a maximal anti-CD3 stimulus resulted in a modest induction of proliferation and the loss of observable suppression in cocultures of CD4(+)CD25(high) regulatory cells and CD4(+)CD25(-) responder cells. Whereas higher ratios of CD4(+)CD25(high) T cells are required to suppress proliferation if the PD-L1 receptor is blocked, regulatory cell function is shown to persist in the absence of the PD-1/PD-L1 or CTLA-4/B7 pathway. Thus, regulatory CD4 T cells expressing high levels of the IL-2 receptor are present in humans, providing the opportunity to determine whether alterations of these populations of T cells are involved in the induction of human autoimmune disorders.

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