No alterations in the frequency of FOXP3+ regulatory T-cells in type 1 diabetes

Todd Brusko, Clive Wasserfall, Kieran McGrail, Richard Schatz, Hilla Lee Viener, Desmond Schatz, Michael Haller, Jennifer Rockell, Peter Gottlieb, Michael Clare-Salzler, Mark Atkinson
Diabetes 2007, 56 (3): 604-12
Regulatory T-cells (Tregs) play a critical role in maintaining dominant peripheral tolerance. Previous characterizations of Tregs in type 1 diabetes have used antibodies against CD4 and alpha-chain of the interleukin-2 receptor complex (CD25). This report extends those investigations by the addition of a more lineage-specific marker for Tregs, transcription factor forkhead box P3 (FOXP3), in subjects with type 1 diabetes, their first-degree relatives, and healthy control subjects. With inclusion of this marker, two predominant populations of CD4(+)CD25(+) T-cells were identified: CD4(+)CD25(+)FOXP3(+) as well as CD4(+)FOXP3(-) T-cells expressing low levels of CD25 (CD4(+)CD25(LOW)FOXP3(-)). In all study groups, the frequency of CD4(+)CD25(+)FOXP3(+) cells was age independent, whereas CD4(+)CD25(LOW)FOXP3(-) cell frequencies strongly associated with age. In terms of additional markers for delineating cells of Treg lineage, FOXP3(+) cells were CD127(-) to CD127(LOW) whereas CD25(+) cells were less restricted in their expression of this marker, with CD127 expressed across a continuum of levels. Importantly, no differences were observed in the frequency of CD4(+)CD25(+)FOXP3(+) T-cells in individuals with or at varying degrees of risk for type 1 diabetes. These investigations suggest that altered peripheral blood frequencies of Tregs, as defined by the expression of FOXP3, are not specifically associated with type 1 diabetes and continue to highlight age as an important variable in analysis of immune regulation.

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