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1.  Elevated Levels of CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ T Cells in Systemic Sclerosis Patients Contribute to the Secretion of IL-17 and Immunosuppression Dysfunction 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e64531.
Immune imbalance between regulatory T (Treg) and Th17 cells is a characteristic of systemic sclerosis (SSc). The functional heterogeneity among Treg can be elucidated by separating Treg into different subsets based on the expression of FoxP3 and CD45RA. The aim of this study was to investigate the role of Treg subsets in the immune imbalance in naïve SSc.
Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) of 31 SSc patients and 33 healthy controls were analyzed for the expression of CD4, CD25, CD45RA, CTLA-4, FoxP3, and IL-17 using flow cytometry. Treg immunesuppression capacity was measured in co-culture experiments. The expression of FoxP3, CTLA-4, IL-17A, and RORC mRNA was measured by real-time PCR.
The frequency of CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ Treg cells was significantly elevated in patients with SSc (3.62±1.14 vs 1.97±0.75, p<0.001) with diminished immunosuppression capacity. In SSc, the proportion of FoxP3highCD45RA− activated Treg cells (aTreg) was decreased, the proportion of FoxP3lowCD45RA− T cells was increased, and the proportion of FoxP3lowCD45RA+ resting Treg cells (rTreg) was decreased. The immune suppression capacity of aTreg and rTreg was diminished, while FoxP3lowCD45RA− T cells exhibited a lack of suppression capacity. The immune dysfunction of aTreg was accompanied by the abnormal expression of CTLA-4. Th17 cell numbers were elevated in SSc, FoxP3lowCD45RA− T cells produced IL-17, confirming their Th17 potential, which was consistent with the elevated levels of FoxP3+IL-17+ cells in SSc.
A decrease in aTreg levels, along with functional deficiency, and an increase in the proportion of FoxP3lowCD45RA− T cells, was the reason for the increase in dysfunctional Treg in SSc patients, potentially causing the immune imbalance between Treg and Th17 cells.
PMCID: PMC3679128  PMID: 23776439
2.  Plasmodium falciparum–Mediated Induction of Human CD25hiFoxp3hi CD4 T Cells Is Independent of Direct TCR Stimulation and Requires IL-2, IL-10 and TGFβ 
PLoS Pathogens  2009;5(8):e1000543.
CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) regulate disease-associated immunity and excessive inflammatory responses, and numbers of CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ Tregs are increased during malaria infection. The mechanisms governing their generation, however, remain to be elucidated. In this study we investigated the role of commonly accepted factors for Foxp3 induction, TCR stimulation and cytokines such as IL-2, TGFβ and IL-10, in the generation of human CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ T cells by the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Using a co-culture system of malaria-infected red blood cells (iRBCs) and peripheral blood mononuclear cells from healthy individuals, we found that two populations of Foxp3hi and Foxp3int CD4+CD25hi T cells with a typical Treg phenotype (CTLA-4+, CD127low, CD39+, ICOS+, TNFRII+) were induced. Pro-inflammatory cytokine production was confined to the Foxp3int subset (IFNγ, IL-4 and IL-17) and inversely correlated with high relative levels of Foxp3hi cells, consistent with Foxp3hi CD4 T cell–mediated inhibition of parasite-induced effector cytokine T cell responses. Both Foxp3hi and Foxp3int cells were derived primarily from proliferating CD4+CD25− T cells with a further significant contribution from CD25+Foxp3+ natural Treg cells to the generation of the Foxp3hi subset. Generation of Foxp3hi, but not Foxp3int, cells specifically required TGFβ1 and IL-10. Add-back experiments showed that monocytes expressing increased levels of co-stimulatory molecules were sufficient for iRBC-mediated induction of Foxp3 in CD4 T cells. Foxp3 induction was driven by IL-2 from CD4 T cells stimulated in an MHC class II–dependent manner. However, transwell separation experiments showed that direct contact of monocytes with the cells that acquire Foxp3 expression was not required. This novel TCR-independent and therefore antigen-non specific mechanism for by-stander CD4+CD25hiFoxp3+ cell induction is likely to reflect a process also occurring in vivo as a consequence of immune activation during malaria infection, and potentially a range of other infectious diseases.
Author Summary
Infection with the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum affects 300–600 million people each year. Regulatory T cells (Tregs) expressing the transcription factor Foxp3, which drives genes involved in immunosuppression, are specialized immune cells that can inhibit both protective and harmful inflammatory responses during malaria. While Treg numbers are increased during malaria infection, little is known about how they are induced by the parasite. We addressed this question using an in vitro culture system to model the interaction of the malaria parasite with human immune cells. We found that the parasite induced soluble immune mediators, including the T cell growth-factor IL-2 and the regulatory proteins IL-10 and TGFβ, which drive the induction and expansion of Tregs. These Tregs expressed high levels of Foxp3 and suppressed the production of inflammation and protective immunity-driving mediators by concurrently induced effector T cells. Importantly, we demonstrate that induction of Tregs by the malaria parasite did not necessarily require direct contact with antigen-presenting cells. Our findings suggest that the parasite induces Tregs in an antigen non-specific manner, which may explain why malarial immunosuppression is not confined to malaria-specific immune responses, and provide new insights into the mechanisms governing Treg induction during malaria infection, and potentially other infectious diseases.
PMCID: PMC2718810  PMID: 19680449
3.  HTLV-1 bZIP Factor Induces Inflammation through Labile Foxp3 Expression 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(9):e1003630.
Human T-cell leukemia virus type 1 (HTLV-1) causes both a neoplastic disease and inflammatory diseases, including HTLV-1-associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP). The HTLV-1 basic leucine zipper factor (HBZ) gene is encoded in the minus strand of the proviral DNA and is constitutively expressed in infected cells and ATL cells. HBZ increases the number of regulatory T (Treg) cells by inducing the Foxp3 gene transcription. Recent studies have revealed that some CD4+Foxp3+ T cells are not terminally differentiated but have a plasticity to convert to other T-cell subsets. Induced Treg (iTreg) cells tend to lose Foxp3 expression, and may acquire an effector phenotype accompanied by the production of inflammatory cytokines, such as interferon-γ (IFN-γ). In this study, we analyzed a pathogenic mechanism of chronic inflammation related with HTLV-1 infection via focusing on HBZ and Foxp3. Infiltration of lymphocytes was observed in the skin, lung and intestine of HBZ-Tg mice. As mechanisms, adhesion and migration of HBZ-expressing CD4+ T cells were enhanced in these mice. Foxp3−CD4+ T cells produced higher amounts of IFN-γ compared to those from non-Tg mice. Expression of Helios was reduced in Treg cells from HBZ-Tg mice and HAM/TSP patients, indicating that iTreg cells are predominant. Consistent with this finding, the conserved non-coding sequence 2 region of the Foxp3 gene was hypermethylated in Treg cells of HBZ-Tg mice, which is a characteristic of iTreg cells. Furthermore, Treg cells in the spleen of HBZ-transgenic mice tended to lose Foxp3 expression and produced an excessive amount of IFN-γ, while Foxp3 expression was stable in natural Treg cells of the thymus. HBZ enhances the generation of iTreg cells, which likely convert to Foxp3−T cells producing IFN-γ. The HBZ-mediated proinflammatory phenotype of CD4+ T cells is implicated in the pathogenesis of HTLV-1-associated inflammation.
Author Summary
Viral infection frequently induces tissue inflammation in the host. HTLV-1 infection is associated with chronic inflammation in the CNS, skin, and lung, but the inflammatory mechanism is not fully understood yet. Since HTLV-1 directly infects CD4+ T cells, central player of the host immune regulation, HTLV-1 should modulate the host immune response not only via viral antigen stimulation but also via CD4+ T-cell-mediated immune deregulation. It has been reported that Foxp3+CD4+ T cells are increased in HTLV-1 infection. It remains a central question in HTLV-1 pathogenesis why HTLV-1 induces inflammation despite of increase of FoxP3+ cells, which generally possess immune suppressive function. We have elucidated here that most of the increased Foxp3+ cells in HBZ-Tg mice or HAM/TSP patients is not thymus-derived naturally occurring Treg cells but induced Treg cells. Since the iTreg cells are prone to lose FoxP3 expression and then become cytokine-producing cells, the increase of iTreg cells could serve as a source of proinflammatory CD4+ T cells. Thus HTLV-1 causes abnormal CD4+ T-cell differentiation by expressing HBZ, which should play a crucial role in chronic inflammation related with HTLV-1. This study has provided new insights into the mechanism of chronic inflammation accompanied with viral infection.
PMCID: PMC3777874  PMID: 24068936
4.  CD39/Adenosine Pathway Is Involved in AIDS Progression 
PLoS Pathogens  2011;7(7):e1002110.
HIV-1 infection is characterized by a chronic activation of the immune system and suppressed function of T lymphocytes. Regulatory CD4+ CD25high FoxP3+CD127low T cells (Treg) play a key role in both conditions. Here, we show that HIV-1 positive patients have a significant increase of Treg-associated expression of CD39/ENTPD1, an ectoenzyme which in concert with CD73 generates adenosine. We show in vitro that the CD39/adenosine axis is involved in Treg suppression in HIV infection. Treg inhibitory effects are relieved by CD39 down modulation and are reproduced by an adenosine-agonist in accordance with a higher expression of the adenosine A2A receptor on patients' T cells. Notably, the expansion of the Treg CD39+ correlates with the level of immune activation and lower CD4+ counts in HIV-1 infected patients. Finally, in a genetic association study performed in three different cohorts, we identified a CD39 gene polymorphism that was associated with down-modulated CD39 expression and a slower progression to AIDS.
Author Summary
HIV-1 infection is characterized by a chronic activation of the immune system. Regulatory T cells (Treg) represent a population of lymphocytes that controls inappropriate or exaggerated immune activation induced by pathogens, thereby influencing the outcome of various infections. Several studies have shown that Treg are expanded in HIV infected patients. However, the mechanisms of Treg immune-modulator functions are not clearly known. CD39 is an ectonucleotidase which converts the proinflammatory ATP signal into AMP and the immunosuppressive adenosine in concert with CD73. A critical role of CD39 has been described for Treg in general but few studies have analyzed its role in HIV infection. We report here an expansion of Treg expressing CD39 in a cohort of HIV-infected patients. In vitro these cells exerted a strong suppressive effect on the effector CD8 T cells. Treg inhibitory effects were relieved by CD39 down-modulation using an anti-CD39 monoclonal antibody. Treg suppressive effects were reproduced by an adenosine agonist in accordance with a higher expression of the adenosine A2A receptor on patients' T cells. From a clinical stand point, we show also a correlation between Treg CD39+ expansion and both immune activation and CD4+ T cell depletion in patients. Finally, by genetic analysis of three different cohorts of patients, we found that a CD39 gene polymorphism associated with a lower CD39 expression correlated with a slower progression to AIDS. Thus, our results contribute to elucidate the mechanisms by which Treg suppression occurs during HIV infection.
PMCID: PMC3131268  PMID: 21750674
5.  Improved generation of anti-tumor immunity by antigen dose limitation 
The malignant cells of cutaneous T cell lymphoma (CTCL) display immunogenic peptides derived from the clonal T cell receptor (TCR) providing an attractive model for refinement of anti-tumor immunization methodology. To produce a clinically meaningful anti-tumor response, induction of cytotoxic anti-CTCL cells must be maximized while suppressive T regulatory cells (Treg) should be minimized. We have demonstrated that engulfment of apoptotic CTCL cells by dendritic cells (DC) can lead to either CD8 anti-CTCL responses or immunosuppressive Treg induction. Treg generation is favored when the number of apoptotic cells available for ingestion is high.
In this study, we sought to determine whether the balance between immunity and immunosuppression could be shifted towards a CD8 anti-CTCL response by lowering the ratio of apoptotic CTCL cells available for DC ingestion. CTCL cell apoptosis was produced by engagement of the TCR by anti-CD3 antibody affixed to magnetic beads.
The physical perturbation inherent in passage through a separation column induced monocytes to differentiate into DC, demonstrated by increased expression of class II and CD86 and decreased expression of the monocyte marker CD14. The immature DC internalized and processed apoptotic CTCL cells and could potentially present the tumor-derived peptides in the context of MHC class I and II. As the number of apoptotic cells increased, there was a dose-dependent increase in the expression of Treg markers CTLA-4, CD25, and FoxP3, with a ratio of apoptotic cell/DC loading of > 10:1 corresponding to the greatest Treg induction. These inducible phenotypic Treg also functionally inhibited CD8-mediated perforin expression in vitro. At lower levels of apoptotic cell/DC loading of < 5:1, there was an expansion of the CD8 T cell compartment with increased perforin expression and increased CTCL cell death, indicating anti-tumor activity.
These findings demonstrate that the ratio of apoptotic cells supplied to DC is an important determinant of whether CD8 anti-tumor immunity or immunosuppression is generated.
PMCID: PMC1800896  PMID: 17291350
6.  Multipotent mesenchymal stromal cells express FoxP3: a marker for the immunosuppressive capacity? 
Multipotent mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) have immunosuppressive capacity but the exact mechanism by which they suppress proliferation of T lymphocytes is not fully understood. Recently, the characteristics and function of regulatory T lymphocytes (Tregs) have become better defined. Tregs and MSCs have immunosuppressive features in common. Here, we looked for a common basis for immunosuppression in these distinct cell types. FoxP3 and CD39 expression in MSCs was measured by flow cytometry and RT-qPCR. The importance of FoxP3 in MSC-mediated immunosuppression was investigated by siRNA technology and mixed lymphocyte culture (MLC). The effect of 5-azacytidine and other immunosuppressive drugs on FoxP3 expression and immunosuppression by MSCs was explored by flow cytometry, MLC, and RT-qPCR. MSCs express FoxP3 at variable levels, but they do not express CD39. FoxP3high MSCs suppress MLC to a greater extent than cells with lower FoxP3 expression. However, FoxP3-decreased MSCs were found to retain their immunosuppressive properties. 5-azacytitine had no effect on FoxP3 expression or MLC suppression by MSCs. However, immunosuppressive drugs led to increased FoxP3 levels and MLC inhibition in FoxP3low MSCs. This is the first demonstration of FoxP3 expression by MSCs. Although MSCs share several features with Tregs, and FoxP3high MSCs tend to be more immunosuppressive, MSCs do not require functional FoxP3 for their immunosuppressive activity. The increased MSC-mediated suppression of immune responses by immunosuppressive drugs deserves further investigation.
PMCID: PMC4157637  PMID: 21499129
transplantation; forkhead box 3; mesenchymal stem cells
7.  IL-21 Is an Antitolerogenic Cytokine of the Late-Phase Alloimmune Response 
Diabetes  2011;60(12):3223-3234.
Interleukin-21 (IL-21) is a proinflammatory cytokine that has been shown to affect Treg/Teff balance. However, the mechanism by which IL-21 orchestrates alloimmune response and interplays with Tregs is still unclear.
The interplay between IL-21/IL-21R signaling, FoxP3 expression, and Treg survival and function was evaluated in vitro in immunologically relevant assays and in vivo in allogenic and autoimmune models of islet transplantation.
IL-21R expression decreases on T cells and B cells in vitro and increases in the graft in vivo, while IL-21 levels increase in vitro and in vivo during anti-CD3/anti-CD28 stimulation/allostimulation in the late phase of the alloimmune response. In vitro, IL-21/IL-21R signaling (by using rmIL-21 or genetically modified CD4+ T cells [IL-21 pOrf plasmid–treated or hIL-21-Tg mice]) enhances the T-cell response during anti-CD3/anti-CD28 stimulation/allostimulation, prevents Treg generation, inhibits Treg function, induces Treg apoptosis, and reduces FoxP3 and FoxP3-dependent gene transcripts without affecting FoxP3 methylation status. In vivo targeting of IL-21/IL-21R expands intragraft and peripheral Tregs, promotes Treg neogenesis, and regulates the antidonor immune response, whereas IL-21/IL-21R signaling in Doxa-inducible ROSA-rtTA-IL-21-Tg mice expands Teffs and FoxP3− cells. Treatment with a combination of mIL-21R.Fc and CTLA4-Ig (an inhibitor of the early alloimmune response) leads to robust graft tolerance in a purely alloimmune setting and prolonged islet graft survival in NOD mice.
IL-21 interferes with different checkpoints of the FoxP3 Treg chain in the late phase of alloimmune response and, thus, acts as an antitolerogenic cytokine. Blockade of the IL-21/IL-21R pathway could be a precondition for tolerogenic protocols in transplantation.
PMCID: PMC3219943  PMID: 22013017
8.  CD4+CD25+ Regulatory Cells Contribute to the Regulation of Colonic Th2 Granulomatous Pathology Caused by Schistosome Infection 
Eggs of the helminth Schistosoma mansoni accumulate in the colon following infection and generate Th2-biassed inflammatory granulomas which become down- modulated in size as the infection proceeds to chronicity. However, although CD4+CD25+FoxP3+regulatory T cells (Tregs) are known to suppress Th1-mediated colitis, it is not clear whether they control Th2 –associated pathologies of the large intestine which characterise several helminth infections. Here we used a novel 3D-multiphoton confocal microscopy approach to visualise and quantify changes in the size and composition of colonic granulomas at the acute and chronic phases of S. mansoni infection. We observed decreased granuloma size, as well as reductions in the abundance of DsRed+ T cells and collagen deposition at 14 weeks (chronic) compared to 8 weeks (acute) post-infection. Th2 cytokine production (i.e. IL-4, IL-5) in the colonic tissue and draining mesenteric lymph node (mLN) decreased during the chronic phase of infection, whilst levels of TGF-β1 increased, co-incident with reduced mLN proliferative responses, granuloma size and fibrosis. The proportion of CD4+CD25+FoxP3+Tregs: CD4+ cells in the mLN increased during chronic disease, while within colonic granulomas there was an approximate 4-fold increase. The proportion of CD4+CD25+FoxP3+Tregs in the mLN that were CD103+ and CCR5+ also increased indicating an enhanced potential to home to intestinal sites. CD4+CD25+ cells suppressed antigen-specific Th2 mLN cell proliferation in vitro, while their removal during chronic disease resulted in significantly larger granulomas, partial reversal of Th2 hypo-responsiveness and an increase in the number of eosinophils in colonic granulomas. Finally, transfer of schistosome infection-expanded CD4+CD25+Tregs down-modulated the development of colonic granulomas, including collagen deposition. Therefore, CD4+CD25+FoxP3+Tregs appear to control Th2 colonic granulomas during chronic infection, and are likely to play a role in containing pathology during intestinal schistosomiasis.
Author Summary
Schistosomiasis is an important parasitic helminth disease afflicting more than 200 million people worldwide. Infections are typically chronic and in the case of Schistosoma mansoni and S. japonicum the majority give rise to an intestinal form of disease caused by the deposition of parasite eggs in the colon and terminal ileum. The eggs cause Th2-associated inflammatory immune granulomas to form, which as the disease develops, are down-regulated by cells of the immune system. However, the mechanisms which underpin the down-regulation of granulomas in the large intestine are not known. In order to investigate the phenomenon of Th2-associated colonic inflammation, we utilized a murine model of infection with S. mansoni and compared immune responses at the acute and chronic phases of infection. We show that a type of regulatory T helper lymphocyte (CD4+CD25+FoxP3+Treg) contributes to regulation of colonic inflammation. These cells modulate anti-egg Th2 responses within the mesenteric lymph nodes and granulomatous pro-fibrotic Th2 responses within the colon. Our study highlights the importance of CD4+CD25+FoxP3+Tregs as a source of regulatory pressure on granuloma formation in the colon and by implication humans with chronic intestinal schistosomiasis.
PMCID: PMC3153428  PMID: 21858239
9.  HIV-1 binding to CD4 on CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells enhances their suppressive function and induces them to home to, and accumulate in, peripheral and mucosal lymphoid tissues: an additional mechanism of immunosuppression 
International Immunology  2009;21(3):283-294.
The establishment and persistence of many chronic infections have been demonstrated to depend on restraint of the vigor of the anti-microbial immune responses by CD4+CD25+ regulatory T (Treg) cells. In HIV-infected individuals, Treg cells suppress both HIV-specific and general CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses. Increases of CD4+CD25+ Treg cell function during viral infections might be mediated by host-derived pro-inflammatory molecules or directly by viral infection or binding. We examined the effect HIV has upon binding to CD4+CD25+ Treg cells by exposing human purified CD4+CD25+ T cells from healthy donors to HIV-1 in vitro and assessing their Treg-associated functional marker profile and suppressive activities. We found that HIV-1 binding increased their suppressor activities by 2- to 5-fold, which was accompanied by enhanced expression of Treg-associated functional markers sCTLA-4, glucocorticoid-induced tumor necrosis factor receptor and FoxP3. Moreover, HIV-1 binding extended the survival of CD4+CD25+ Treg cells and up-regulated the expression of homing receptors CD62L and integrin α4β7, which in turn would result in Treg cells migrating more rapidly to the peripheral lymph nodes and mucosal lymphoid tissues where anti-HIV immune responses are occurring. Importantly, CD4+CD25+ Treg cells exposed to HIV were not susceptible to homing-induced apoptosis like are other resting CD4+ cells following HIV-1 binding. We show that CD4+CD25+ Treg cells respond directly to HIV-1 itself through HIV gp120 interactions with CD4 molecules. Collectively, our findings explain a mechanism that contributes to the abnormal accumulation of intensified Treg cells in lymphoid and mucosal tissues in HIV patients, resulting in impairment of immune responses which would greatly help HIV persistence.
PMCID: PMC2645780  PMID: 19208751
CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells; HIV-1; homing; suppressive function
10.  Phenotypic and functional characteristics of ATP-hydrolysing CD4+CD39+ FOXP3+ and CD4+CD39+FOXP3negT-cell subsets in patients with cancer 
European journal of immunology  2012;42(7):1876-1885.
Human CD4+CD39+ regulatory T (Treg) cells hydrolyze exogenous ATP and participate in immunosuppressive adenosine production. They contain two T-cell subsets whose role in mediating suppression is not understood. Frequencies of both CD4+CD39+ subsets were evaluated in peripheral blood lymphocytes of 57 cancer patients and in tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) of 6 patients. CD4+CD39+ and CD4+CD39neg T cells isolated using immunobeads and cell sorting were cultured under various conditions. Their conversion into CD39+FOXP3+CD25+ or CD39+FOXnegCD25neg cells was monitored by multiparameter flow cytometry. Hydrolysis of exogenous ATP was measured in luminescence assays.
Two CD4+CD39+ cell subsets differing in expression of CD25, FOXP3, CTLA-4, CD121a, PD-1, LAP, GARP and the cytokine profile accumulated with equal frequencies in the blood and tumor tissues of cancer patients. The frequency of both subsets was significantly increased in cancer. CD39 expression levels correlated with the subsets' ability to hydrolyze ATP. Conventional CD4+CD39neg T cells incubated with IL-2 + TGF-β expanded to generate CD4+CD39+FOXP3+ Treg cells, while CD4+CD39+FOXP3negCD25neg subset cells stimulated via the TCR and IL-2 converted to FOXP3+CTLA4+CD25+ TGF-β-expressing Treg cells. Among CD4+CD39+ Treg cells, the CD4+CD39+FOXP3negCD25neg subset serves as a reservoir of cells able to convert to Treg cells upon activation by environmental signals.
PMCID: PMC3689271  PMID: 22585562
CD4+CD39+ Treg cells; CD39 expression; ATP hydrolysis; immune suppression; head and neck squamous cell cancer (HNSCC)
11.  CTLA4 expression is an indicator and regulator of steady-state CD4+FoxP3+ T cell homeostasis1 
The presence of FoxP3+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) is necessary for control of deleterious immune responses in the steady-state; however, mechanisms for maintaining the frequency and quality of endogenous Tregs are not well-defined. In this study, we used in vivo modulators of the CD28 and CTLA4 pathways administered to intact mice to reveal mechanisms controlling the homeostasis and phenotype of endogenous Tregs. We demonstrate that expression of the negative costimulatory regulator CTLA4 on FoxP3+ Tregs in vivo is a direct consequence of their rapid, perpetual homeostasis. Upregulation of CTLA4 expression occurs only on FoxP3+ Tregs undergoing extensive proliferation and can be abrogated by inhibiting the CD28 pathway, coinciding with a reduction in FoxP3+ Treg proliferation and frequency. We further demonstrate that CTLA4 negatively regulates steady-state Treg homeostasis, as inhibiting CTLA4 signaling with an anti-CTLA4 blocking antibody greatly enhances Treg proliferation and overall Treg frequency. Our findings provide new insight into the origin and role of CTLA4 expression on natural FoxP3+ Tregs, and reveal that costimulation modulators can alter the steady-state level and quality of Tregs, with implications regarding their effects on endogenous Tregs in patients receiving immunotherapy.
PMCID: PMC2683757  PMID: 18641318
T cells; Costimulation; Tolerance/Suppression/Anergy; Immunotherapy
12.  CD8+ Treg Cells Associated with Decreasing Disease Activity after Intravenous Methylprednisolone Pulse Therapy in Lupus Nephritis with Heavy Proteinuria 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e81344.
We focus on the role of CD8+ Treg cell in Intravenous methyl-prednisolone (IVMP) pulse therapy in forty patients with active Class III/IV childhood lupus nephritis (LN) with heavy proteinuria. IVMP therapy for five days. From peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and renal tissues, we saw IVMP therapy definitely restoring both CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ and CD8+CD25+Foxp3+ Treg cell number plus greater expression with intracellular IL-10 and granzyme B in CD8+FoxP3+ Treg from PBMCs. IVMP-treated CD8+CD25+ Treg cells directly suppressed CD4+ T proliferation and induced CD4+CD45RO+ apoptosis. Histologically, CD4+FoxP3+ as well as CD8+FoxP3+ Treg cells appeared in renal tissue of LN patients before IVMP by double immunohistochemical stain. CD8+FoxP3+ Treg cells increased in 10 follow-up renal biopsy specimens after IVMP. Reverse correlation of serum anti-C1q antibody and FoxP3+ Treg cells in PBMNCs (r = −0.714, P<0.01). After IVMP, serum anti-C1q antibody decrease accompanied increase of CD4+FoxP3+ Treg cells. CD8+Treg cells reduced interferon-r response in PBMCs to major peptide autoepitopes from nucleosomes after IVMP therapy; siRNA of FoxP3 suppressed granzyme B expression while decreasing CD8+CD25+Treg-induced CD4+CD45RO+ apoptosis. Renal activity of LN by SLEDAI-2k in childhood LN was significantly higher than two weeks after IVMP (P<0.01). CD8+FoxP3+ Treg cells return in post-IVMP therapy and exert crucial immune modulatory effect to control autoimmune response in LN.
Trial Registration
PMCID: PMC3903465  PMID: 24475019
13.  Tumour Cell Generation of Inducible Regulatory T-Cells in Multiple Myeloma Is Contact-Dependent and Antigen-Presenting Cell-Independent 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e35981.
Regulatory T-cells (TReg cells) are increased in patients with multiple myeloma (MM). We investigated whether MM cells could generate and/or expand TReg cells as a method of immuno-surveillance avoidance. In an in vitro model, CD4+CD25-FoxP3- T-cells co-cultured with malignant plasma cells (primary MM cells and cell lines) induced a significant generation of CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ inducible TReg cells (tTReg cells; p<0.0001), in a contact-dependent manner. tTReg cells were polyclonal, demonstrated a suppressive phenotype and phenotypically, demonstrated increased FoxP3 (p = 0.0001), increased GITR (p<0.0001), increased PD1 (p = 0.003) and decreased CD62L (p = 0.007) expression compared with naturally occurring TReg cells. FACS-sorted tTReg cells differentiated into FoxP+IL-17+ and FoxP3-IL-17+ CD4+ cells upon TCR-mediated stimulation. Blocking experiments with anti-ICOS-L MoAb resulted in a significant inhibition of tTReg cell generation whereas both IL-10 & TGFβ blockade did not. MM tumour cells can directly generate functional TReg cells in a contact-dependent manner, mediated by ICOS/ICOS-L. These features suggest that tumour generation of TReg cells may contribute to evasion of immune surveillance by the host.
PMCID: PMC3362588  PMID: 22666318
14.  Functional Characterization of HLA-G+ Regulatory T Cells in HIV-1 Infection 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(1):e1003140.
Regulatory T cells represent a specialized subpopulation of T lymphocytes that may modulate spontaneous HIV-1 disease progression by suppressing immune activation or inhibiting antiviral T cell immune responses. While the effects of classical CD25hi FoxP3+ Treg during HIV-1 infection have been analyzed in a series of recent investigations, very little is known about the role of non-classical regulatory T cells that can be phenotypically identified by surface expression of HLA-G or the TGF-β latency-associated peptide (LAP). Here, we show that non-classical HLA-G-expressing CD4 Treg are highly susceptible to HIV-1 infection and significantly reduced in persons with progressive HIV-1 disease courses. Moreover, the proportion of HLA-G+ CD4 and CD8 T cells was inversely correlated to markers of HIV-1 associated immune activation. Mechanistically, this corresponded to an increased ability of HLA-G+ Treg to reduce bystander immune activation, while only minimally inhibiting the functional properties of HIV-1-specific T cells. Frequencies of LAP+ CD4 Treg were not significantly reduced in HIV-1 infection, and unrelated to immune activation. These data indicate an important role of HLA-G+ Treg for balancing bystander immune activation and anti-viral immune activity in HIV-1 infection and suggest that the loss of these cells during advanced HIV-1 infection may contribute to immune dysregulation and HIV-1 disease progression.
Author Summary
HIV-1 causes disease by inducing a chronic inflammatory state that leads to progressive CD4 T cell losses and clinical signs of immune deficiency. Regulatory T cells (Treg) represent a subgroup of T lymphocytes with immunosuppressive activities that can reduce HIV-1 associated immune activation, but may also worsen HIV-1 disease progression by inhibiting T cell responses directed against HIV-1 itself. Here, we describe a non-classical population of regulatory T cells that differ from conventional Treg by the expression of HLA-G, a molecule that contributes to maternal tolerance against semiallogeneic fetal tissue during pregnancy. We show that HLA-G-expressing Treg have a unique functional ability to reduce harmful bystander immune activation, while minimally inhibiting potentially beneficial T cell-mediated immune responses against HIV-1. In this way, HLA-G-expressing Treg may represent a previously unrecognized barrier against HIV-1 associated immune activation and a possible target for future immunotherapeutic interventions in HIV-1 infection.
PMCID: PMC3561210  PMID: 23382678
15.  Rapid Rebound of the Treg Compartment in DEREG Mice Limits the Impact of Treg Depletion on Mycobacterial Burden, but Prevents Autoimmunity 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e102804.
The development of an effective vaccine against tuberculosis (Tb) represents one of the major medical challenges of this century. Mycobacterium bovis Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG), the only vaccine available at present, is mostly effective at preventing disseminated Tb in children, but shows variable protection against pulmonary Tb, the most common form in adults. The reasons for this poor efficacy are not completely understood, but there is evidence that T regulatory cells (Tregs) might be involved. Similarly, Tregs have been associated with the immunosuppression observed in patients infected with Tb and are therefore believed to play a role in pathogen persistence. Thus, Treg depletion has been postulated as a novel strategy to potentiate M. bovis BCG vaccination on one side, while on the other, employed as a therapeutic approach during chronic Tb infection. Yet since Tregs are critically involved in controlling autoimmune inflammation, elimination of Tregs may therefore also incur the danger of an excessive inflammatory immune response. Thus, understanding the dynamics and function of Tregs during mycobacterial infection is crucial to evaluate the potential of Treg depletion as a medical option. To address this, we depleted Tregs after infection with M. bovis BCG or Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) using DEREG mice, which express the diphtheria toxin (DT) receptor under the control of the FoxP3 locus, thereby allowing the selective depletion of FoxP3+ Tregs. Our results show that after depletion, the Treg niche is rapidly refilled by a population of DT-insensitive Tregs (diTregs) and bacterial load remains unchanged. On the contrary, impaired rebound of Tregs in DEREG × FoxP3GFP mice improves pathogen burden, but is accompanied by detrimental autoimmune inflammation. Therefore, our study provides the proof-of-principle that, although a high degree of Treg depletion may contribute to the control of mycobacterial infection, it carries the risk of autoimmunity.
PMCID: PMC4106855  PMID: 25050936
16.  Do Natural T Regulatory Cells become Activated to Antigen Specific T Regulatory Cells in Transplantation and in Autoimmunity? 
Antigen specific T regulatory cells (Treg) are often CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ T cells, with a phenotype similar to natural Treg (nTreg). It is assumed that nTreg cannot develop into an antigen specific Treg as repeated culture with IL-2 and a specific antigen does not increase the capacity or potency of nTreg to promote immune tolerance or suppress in vitro. This has led to an assumption that antigen specific Treg mainly develop from CD4+CD25−FoxP3− T cells, by activation with antigen and TGF-β in the absence of inflammatory cytokines such as IL-6 and IL-1β. Our studies on antigen specific CD4+CD25+ T cells from animals with tolerance to an allograft, identified that the antigen specific and Treg are dividing, and need continuous stimulation with specific antigen T cell derived cytokines. We identified that a variety of cytokines, especially IL-5 and IFN-γ but not IL-2 or IL-4 promoted survival of antigen specific CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ Treg. To examine if nTreg could be activated to antigen specific Treg, we activated nTreg in culture with either IL-2 or IL-4. Within 3 days, antigen specific Treg are activated and there is induction of new cytokine receptors on these cells. Specifically nTreg activated by IL-2 and antigen express the interferon-γ receptor (IFNGR) and IL-12p70 (IL-12Rβ2) receptor but not the IL-5 receptor (IL-5Rα). These cells were responsive to IFN-γ or IL-12p70. nTreg activated by IL-4 and alloantigen express IL-5Rα not IFNGR or IL-12p70Rβ2 and become responsive to IL-5. These early activated antigen specific Treg, were respectively named Ts1 and Ts2 cells, as they depend on Th1 or Th2 responses. Further culture of Ts1 cells with IL-12p70 induced Th1-like Treg, expressing IFN-γ, and T-bet as well as FoxP3. Our studies suggest that activation of nTreg with Th1 or Th2 responses induced separate lineages of antigen specific Treg, that are dependent on late Th1 and Th2 cytokines, not the early cytokines IL-2 and IL-4.
PMCID: PMC3731939  PMID: 23935597
antigen specific Treg; nTreg; Th1-like Treg; Th2-like Treg; immune tolerance
17.  Plasmodium vivax: Induction of CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ Regulatory T Cells during Infection Are Directly Associated with Level of Circulating Parasites 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(3):e9623.
Circulation CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) have been associated with the delicate balancing between control of overwhelming acute malaria infection and prevention of immune pathology due to disproportionate inflammatory responses to erythrocytic stage of the parasite. While the role of Tregs has been well-documented in murine models and P. falciparum infection, the phenotype and function of Tregs in P. vivax infection is still poorly characterized. In the current study, we demonstrated that patients with acute P. vivax infection presented a significant augmentation of circulating Tregs producing anti-inflammatory (IL-10 and TGF-β) as well as pro-inflammatory (IFN-γ, IL-17) cytokines, which was further positively correlated with parasite burden. Surface expression of GITR molecule and intracellular expression of CTLA-4 were significantly upregulated in Tregs from infected donors, presenting also a positive association between either absolute numbers of CD4+CD25+FoxP3+GITR+ or CD4+CD25+FoxP3+CTLA-4+ and parasite load. Finally, we demonstrate a suppressive effect of Treg cells in specific T cell proliferative responses of P. vivax infected subjects after antigen stimulation with Pv-AMA-1. Our findings indicate that malaria vivax infection lead to an increased number of activated Treg cells that are highly associated with parasite load, which probably exert an important contribution to the modulation of immune responses during P. vivax infection.
PMCID: PMC2835751  PMID: 20224778
18.  CD44 co-stimulation promotes FoxP3+ regulatory T-cell persistence and function via production of IL-2, IL-10 and TGF-beta 
Work by our group and others has demonstrated a role for the extracellular matrix receptor CD44 and it's ligand hyaluronan in CD4+CD25+ regulatory T-cell (Treg) function. Herein we explore the mechanistic basis for this observation. Using mouse FoxP3/GFP+ Treg we find that CD44 co-stimulation promotes expression of FoxP3, in part through production of IL-2. This promotion of IL-2 production was also resistant to Cyclosporine A treatment, suggesting that CD44 costimulation may promote IL-2 production through bypassing FoxP3-mediated suppression of NFAT. CD44 co-stimulation increased production of IL-10 in a partially Il-2 dependant manner and also promoted cell-surface TGF-β expression. Consistent with these findings, Treg from CD44 knock-out mice demonstrated impaired regulatory function ex vivo and depressed production of IL-10 and cell-surface TGF-β. These data reveal a novel role for CD44 cross-linking in the production of regulatory cytokines. Similar salutary effects on FoxP3 expression were observed upon co-stimulation with hyaluronan, the primary natural ligand for CD44. This effect is dependent upon CD44 cross-linking; while both high molecular weight hyaluronan (HMW-HA) and plate-bound anti-CD44 Ab promoted FoxP3 expression, neither low-molecular weight HA (LMW-HA) nor soluble anti-CD44 Ab did so. The implication is that intact HMW-HA can cross-link CD44 only in those settings where it predominates over fragmentary LMW-HA, namely in un-inflamed tissue. We propose that intact but not fragmented ECM is capable of cross-linking CD44 and thereby maintains immunologic tolerance in uninjured or healing tissue.
PMCID: PMC3057032  PMID: 19635906
19.  Immunoregulatory Pathways Controlling Progression of Autoimmunity in NOD Mice 
The activation, expansion, and survival of regulatory T cells (Tregs) as well as the expression of their suppressive capacities result from distinct signaling pathways involving various membrane receptors and cytokines. Multiple studies have shown that thymus-derived naturally occurring Tregs constitutively express the forkhead/winged helix transcription factor FoxP3 in addition to high levels of CD25, the negative co-stimulatory molecule CTLA-4, and the glucocorticoid-induced TNF receptor-related protein GITR. At variance, adaptive or induced Tregs acquire these phenotypic markers as they differentiate in the periphery, following adequate stimulation in the appropriate environment, together with their capacity to produce immunomodulatory cytokines (mainly, IL-4, IL-10 and TGF-β) and to display regulatory capacities. However, none of these molecules but FoxP3 are restricted to Tregs since they may also be expressed and upregulated on activated effector T cells. This explains why different hypotheses were proposed to interpret interesting reports showing that in vivo abrogation of CTLA-4 signaling using neutralizing CTLA-4 antibodies triggers different autoimmune or immune-mediated manifestations. Thus, an effect on pathogenic T cell effectors and/or Tregs has been proposed. Here we present and discuss recent results we obtained in the nonobese diabetic (NOD) mouse model of spontaneous autoimmune diabetes, arguing for a key role of CTLA-4 in the functional activity of Tregs. Moreover, data are presented that simultaneous blockade of CTLA4 and TGF-β further impairs immunoregulatory circuits that control disease progression.
PMCID: PMC3087168  PMID: 19120317
CTLA-4; TGF-β; NOD; autoimmune diabetes; regulatory T cells
20.  Phospho-Flow Cytometry Based Analysis of Differences in T Cell Receptor Signaling Between Regulatory T Cells and CD4+ T Cells 
CD4+ T regulatory cells (Tregs) are activated during auto-immune, injury, and inflammatory responses, however, the molecular events that trigger Treg activation are poorly understood. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether Tregs (FoxP3+ CD4+ T cells) and non-Treg CD4+ T cells might display differences in T cell receptor (TCR) dependent signaling responses following in vitro or in vivo stimulation. This study used phospho-flow cytometry as a tool to profile the kinetics and extent of TCR signaling (ZAP-70 and PKC-θ phosphorylation and expression) in Tregs and non-Tregs. We found that in vitro stimulation with anti-CD3ε induces early and transient activation of ZAP-70 and PKC-θ in both Tregs and non-Tregs. However, the response in Tregs was more rapid and higher in magnitude than responses seen in non-Tregs. In contrast, bacterial superantigen or antigen-specific TCR stimulation did not significantly activate these signaling pathways in Tregs or non-Tregs. Additional experiments tested the kinetics of in vivo TCR signaling in Tregs and non-Tregs in mice challenged with bacterial superantigen. The results of these experiments showed that superantigen rapidly activated ZAP-70 and PKC-θ in lymph node Tregs, but not in non-Tregs. In summary, we demonstrate the versatility of using phospho-flow cytometry to measure cell signaling in CD4+ T cells. The results of these in vitro and in vivo studies demonstrate that Tregs and non-Treg CD4+ T cells show marked differences in their reactivity to TCR-dependent stimulation and contribute new insights into basic mechanisms that lead to Treg activation.
PMCID: PMC4287240  PMID: 21945004
T cell activation; CD4+ T regulatory cells; T cell receptor; intracellular signaling; differential cell activation
21.  Induction of CD4+CD25+FOXP3+ Regulatory T Cells during Human Hookworm Infection Modulates Antigen-Mediated Lymphocyte Proliferation 
Hookworm infection is considered one of the most important poverty-promoting neglected tropical diseases, infecting 576 to 740 million people worldwide, especially in the tropics and subtropics. These blood-feeding nematodes have a remarkable ability to downmodulate the host immune response, protecting themselves from elimination and minimizing severe host pathology. While several mechanisms may be involved in the immunomodulation by parasitic infection, experimental evidences have pointed toward the possible involvement of regulatory T cells (Tregs) in downregulating effector T-cell responses upon chronic infection. However, the role of Tregs cells in human hookworm infection is still poorly understood and has not been addressed yet. In the current study we observed an augmentation of circulating CD4+CD25+FOXP3+ regulatory T cells in hookworm-infected individuals compared with healthy non-infected donors. We have also demonstrated that infected individuals present higher levels of circulating Treg cells expressing CTLA-4, GITR, IL-10, TGF-β and IL-17. Moreover, we showed that hookworm crude antigen stimulation reduces the number of CD4+CD25+FOXP3+ T regulatory cells co-expressing IL-17 in infected individuals. Finally, PBMCs from infected individuals pulsed with excreted/secreted products or hookworm crude antigens presented an impaired cellular proliferation, which was partially augmented by the depletion of Treg cells. Our results suggest that Treg cells may play an important role in hookworm-induced immunosuppression, contributing to the longevity of hookworm survival in infected people.
Author Summary
The hookworm infection is characterized by the long-term survival of the parasite and the concomitant modulation of the host immunity. Among several mechanisms that may account for the suppression of T cell response, we here described the presence and role of T regulatory cells (also known as Tregs) in the human hookworm infection. Tregs are a minor subpopulation of CD4+ T-cells, which also express specific cell markers that allow its further identification (CD25 and FOXP3). Our results showed that hookworm infection induce an augmentation of Tregs in the peripheral blood, followed by the higher levels of circulating Treg cells expressing several markers and cytokines associated with cell regulation (CTLA-4, GITR, IL-10, TGF-β and IL-17). We also demonstrated that in vitro depletion of Tregs partially enhanced the naturally impaired cellular proliferation of lymphocytes from infected individuals after antigenic stimulation. Our results suggest that Treg cells may play an important role in hookworm-induced immunosuppression, contributing to the longevity of hookworm survival in infected people.
PMCID: PMC3210756  PMID: 22087344
22.  TNF by inducing co-stimulatory TNF receptor superfamily members TNFR2, 4-1BB and OX40 augments the number and function of mouse CD4+FoxP3+ regulatory T cells 
European journal of immunology  2011;41(7):2010-2020.
TNF is a pleiotropic cytokine with intriguing biphasic pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory effects. Our previous studies demonstrated that TNF up-regulated FoxP3 expression and activated and expanded CD4+FoxP3+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) by utilizing TNFR2. Further, TNFR2-expressing Tregs exhibited maximal suppressive activity. In this study, we show that TNF, in concert with IL-2, preferentially up-regulated mRNA and surface expression of TNFR2, 4-1BB and OX40 on Tregs. Agonistic antibodies against 4-1BB and OX40 also induced the proliferation of suppressive Tregs. Thus, TNF amplifies its stimulatory effect on Tregs by inducing TNF receptor superfamily (TNFRSF) members. In addition, administration of neutralizing anti-TNF Ab blocked LPS-induced expansion of splenic Tregs and up-regulation of TNFR2, OX40 and 4-1BB receptors on Tregs in vivo, indicating that the expansion of Tregs expressing these co-stimulatory TNFRSF members in response to LPS is mediated by TNF. Taken together, our novel data indicate that TNF preferentially up-regulates TNFR2 on Tregs, and this is amplified by the stimulation of 4-1BB and OX40, resulting in the optimal activation of Tregs and augmented attenuation of excessive inflammatory responses.
PMCID: PMC3783213  PMID: 21491419
TNF; regulatory T cells; co-stimulation; immune regulation
23.  TNFR2 is critical for the stabilization of the CD4+FoxP3+ regulatory T cell phenotype in the inflammatory environment 
Several lines of evidence indicate the instability of CD4+FoxP3+ regulatory T cells (Tregs). We have therefore investigated means of promoting the stability of Tregs. In this study, we found that the proportion of Tregs in mouse strains deficient in TNFR2 or its ligands was reduced in the thymus and peripheral lymphoid tissues, suggesting a potential role of TNFR2 in promoting the sustained expression of FoxP3. We observed that upon in vitro activation with plate-bound anti-CD3 Ab and soluble anti-CD28 Ab, FoxP3 expression by highly purified mouse Tregs was markedly down-regulated. Importantly, TNF partially abrogated this effect of TCR stimulation and stabilized FoxP3 expression. This effect of TNF was blocked by anti-TNFR2 Ab, but not by anti-TNFR1 Ab. Furthermore, TNF was not able to maintain FoxP3 expression by TNFR2-deficient Tregs. In mouse colitis model induced by transfer of naïve CD4 cells into Rag1−/− mice, the disease could be inhibited by co-transfer of WT Tregs, but not by co-transfer of TNFR2-deficient Tregs. Furthermore, in the lamina propria of the colitis model, the majority of WT Tregs maintained FoxP3 expression. In contrast, increased number of TNFR2-deficient Tregs lost FoxP3 expression. Thus, our data clearly show that TNFR2 is critical for the phenotypic and functional stability of Treg in the inflammatory environment. This effect of TNF should be taken into account when designing future therapy of autoimmunity and GVHD by using TNF inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3552130  PMID: 23277487
T cell; cytokine receptor; tolerance/suppression/anergy
24.  CD8+CD45RA+CCR7+FOXP3+ T cells with immunosuppressive properties: a novel subset of inducible human regulatory T cells 
CD8 T cells stimulated with a suboptimal dose of anti-CD3 antibodies (100 pg/ml) in the presence of IL-15 retain a naïve phenotype with expression of CD45RA, CD28, CD27 and CCR7 but acquire new functions and differentiate into immunosuppressive T cells. CD8+CCR7+ Tregs express FOXP3 and prevent CD4 T cells from responding to T-cell receptor stimulation and entering the cell cycle. Naïve CD4 T cells are more susceptible to inhibition than memory cells. The suppressive activity of CD8+CCR7+ Tregs is not mediated by IL-10, TGF-β, CTLA-4, CCL4 or adenosine and relies on interference with very early steps of the TCR signaling cascade. Specifically, CD8+CCR7+ Tregs prevent TCR-induced phosphorylation of ZAP70 and dampen the rise of intracellular calcium in CD4 T cells. The inducibility of CD8+CCR7+ Tregs is correlated to the age of the individual with peripheral blood lymphocytes of donors older than 60 years yielding low numbers of FOXP3low CD8 Treg cells. Loss of CD8+CCR7+ Tregs in the elderly host may be of relevance in the aging immune system as immunosenescence is associated with a state of chronic smoldering inflammation.
PMCID: PMC3424334  PMID: 22821963
25.  Thorax irradiation triggers a local and systemic accumulation of immunosuppressive CD4+ FoxP3+ regulatory T cells 
Lymphocyte infiltration is a common feature of radiation-induced pneumonitis and fibrosis, but their contribution to the pathogenic processes is still unclear. Here, we addressed the impact of thorax irradiation on the T cell compartment with a focus on immunosuppressive regulatory T cells (Treg).
C57BL/6 wild type mice (WT) received anesthesia only (sham controls, 0 Gy) or were exposed to a single dose of whole thorax irradiation (15 Gy). Immune cells from lung tissue, spleen, and cervical lymph nodes were collected 10 to 84 days post-irradiation and phenotypically characterized by flow cytometry.
Whole thorax irradiation provoked an increased influx of CD3+ T cells at 42 and 84 days post-irradiation. In contrast, local irradiation caused a sustained reduction in CD3+ T cells in peripheral lymphoid tissues. Interestingly, we observed a significant local and systemic increase in the fraction of CD4+ T cells expressing the transcription factor forkhead box P3 (FoxP3), the phenotypic marker for murine Treg, at day 21 post-irradiation. The accumulation of Treg was associated with increased levels of T cells expressing surface proteins characteristic for recruitment and immunosuppressive activity, e.g. CD103, CTLA-4 and CD73. Importantly, Treg isolated at this time point were able to suppress CD4+ effector T cells to a similar extent as Treg isolated from control mice.
The response of the adaptive immune system to whole thorax irradiation is characterized by local immunoactivation and systemic immunosuppression. The transient accumulation of immunosuppressive CD4+ FoxP3+ Treg may be required to protect the lung against excessive inflammation-induced tissue damage. Further investigations shall define the mechanisms underlying the accumulation of Treg and their role for the pathogenesis of radiation-induced lung disease.
PMCID: PMC4011772  PMID: 24766907
Thorax irradiation; Regulatory T cells; T-lymphocytes; Pneumonitis; Fibrosis

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