CD4(+) CD25(low) GITR(+) cells: a novel human CD4(+) T-cell population with regulatory activity

Rodolfo Bianchini, Onelia Bistoni, Alessia Alunno, Maria Grazia Petrillo, Simona Ronchetti, Paolo Sportoletti, Elena Bartoloni Bocci, Giuseppe Nocentini, Roberto Gerli, Carlo Riccardi
European Journal of Immunology 2011, 41 (8): 2269-78
Treg subsets play a role in sustaining peripheral tolerance, are characterized by markers such as forkhead winged-helix transcription factor (FOXP3) and CD25, and produce suppressive cytokines, such as IL-10 and TGF-β. Glucocorticoid-induced TNF receptor family-related (GITR) protein has been suggested to regulate Treg activity in mice. The aim of our study was to investigate GITR expression in human CD4(+) T lymphocytes and its possible role in Treg function. Results indicate that a subset of CD4(+) T cells in the peripheral blood expresses GITR and low levels of CD25 (CD4(+) CD25(low) GITR(+) ). These cells show Treg features as they express FOXP3, IL-10, TGF-β and are anergic but, as opposed to natural Tregs, express low levels of CTLA-4 and are CD127(high) . CD4(+) CD25(low) GITR(+) cells represent a low percentage of the CD4(+) T-cell population (0.32-1.74%) and are mostly memory cells. Functional experiments demonstrated that CD4(+) CD25(low) GITR(+) cells have relevant suppressive activity that depends on TGF-β. Moreover, an anti-GITR Ab inhibited their suppressive activity, as observed in CD4(+) CD25(+) murine Tregs. Taken together, these data indicate that human CD4(+) CD25(low) GITR(+) cells represent a distinct Treg subpopulation.

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