Conversion of CD4+ CD25- cells into CD4+ CD25+ regulatory T cells in vivo requires B7 costimulation, but not the thymus.

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Louisville Health Science Center, Louisville, KY 40202, USA.
Journal of Experimental Medicine (Impact Factor: 13.91). 02/2005; 201(1):127-37. DOI: 10.1084/jem.20041201
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The CD4+ CD25+ regulatory T cells play a critical role in controlling autoimmunity, but little is known about their development and maintenance. In this study, we investigated whether CD4+ CD25- cells can convert to CD4+ CD25+ regulatory T cells in vivo under natural conditions. CD4+ CD25- cells from CD45.1+ mice were sorted and transferred into congenic CD45.2+ mice. Converted CD4+ CD25+ cells could be detected in lymphoid organs as early as 1 wk after transfer and by 6 wk after transfer, 5-12% of transferred CD4+ cells expressed CD25. Converted CD4+ CD25+ cells themselves failed to proliferate after stimulation, but could suppress proliferation of responder cells in vitro, and also expressed high levels of Foxp3 mRNA. In addition, CD4+ CD25- cells transferred into thymectomized congenic mice converted to CD4+ CD25+ cells that also suppressed responder cell proliferation in vitro, and expressed high levels of Foxp3 mRNA. Finally, CD4+ CD25- cells transferred into B7-/- mice failed to convert into CD4+ CD25+ cells that exhibit the regulatory phenotype. These data indicate that CD4+ CD25- cells convert into CD4+ CD25+ regulatory T cells spontaneously in vivo and suggest that this conversion process could contribute significantly to the maintenance of the peripheral CD4+ CD25+ regulatory T cell population.

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