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J Immunol. 2011 Mar 15;186(6):3317-26. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1002502. Epub 2011 Feb 7.

CD2 costimulation reveals defective activity by human CD4+CD25(hi) regulatory cells in patients with multiple sclerosis.

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Division of Molecular Immunology, Center for Neurologic Diseases, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Studying the activity of homogeneous regulatory T cell (Treg) populations will advance our understanding of their mechanisms of action and their role in human disease. Although isolating human Tregs exhibiting low expression of CD127 markedly increases purity, the resulting Treg populations are still heterogeneous. To examine the complexity of the Tregs defined by the CD127 phenotype in comparison with the previously described CD4(+)CD25(hi) subpopulations, we subdivided the CD25(hi) population of memory Tregs into subsets based on expression of CD127 and HLA-DR. These subsets exhibited differences in suppressive capacity, ability to secrete IL-10 and IL-17, Foxp3 gene methylation, cellular senescence, and frequency in neonatal and adult blood. The mature, short telomere, effector CD127(lo)HLA-DR(+) cells most strongly suppressed effector T cells within 48 h, whereas the less mature CD127(lo)HLA-DR(-) cells required 96 h to reach full suppressive capacity. In contrast, whereas the CD127(+)HLA-DR(-) cells also suppressed proliferation of effector cells, they could alternate between suppression or secretion of IL-17 depending upon the stimulation signals. When isolated from patients with multiple sclerosis, both the nonmature and the effector subsets of memory CD127(lo) Tregs exhibited kinetically distinct defects in suppression that were evident with CD2 costimulation. These data demonstrate that natural and not induced Tregs are less suppressive in patients with multiple sclerosis.

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