DOI: 10.4049/jimmunol.164.1.183 ISSN:

Suppressor Effector Function of CD4+CD25+ Immunoregulatory T Cells Is Antigen Nonspecific

Angela M. Thornton, Ethan M. Shevach
  • Immunology
  • Immunology and Allergy


CD4+CD25+ T cells represent a unique population of “professional” suppressor T cells that prevent induction of organ-specific autoimmune disease. In vitro, CD4+CD25+ cells were anergic to simulation via the TCR and when cultured with CD4+CD25− cells, markedly suppressed polyclonal T cell proliferation by specifically inhibiting the production of IL-2. Suppression was cytokine independent, cell contact dependent, and required activation of the suppressors via their TCR. Further characterization of the CD4+CD25+ population demonstrated that they do not contain memory or activated T cells and that they act through an APC-independent mechanism. CD4+CD25+ T cells isolated from TCR transgenic (Tg) mice inhibited responses of CD4+CD25− Tg T cells to the same Ag, but also inhibited the Ag-specific responses of Tg cells specific for a distinct Ag. Suppression required that both peptide/MHC complexes be present in the same culture, but the Ags could be presented by two distinct populations of APC. When CD4+CD25+ T cells were cultured with anti-CD3 and IL-2, they expanded, remained anergic, and in the absence of restimulation via their TCR, suppressed Ag-specific responses of CD4+CD25− T cells from multiple TCR transgenics. Collectively, these data demonstrate that CD4+CD25+ T cells require activation via their TCR to become suppressive, but once activated, their suppressor effector function is completely nonspecific. The cell surface molecules involved in this T-T interaction remain to be characterized.

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