Human secondary lymphoid organs typically contain polyclonally-activated proliferating regulatory T cells

JH Peters, HJPM Koenen, E Fasse, HJ Tijssen, J.N.M. IJzermans, PJTA Groenen, NPM Schaap, Jaap Kwekkeboom, I Joosten

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28 Citations (Scopus)


Immunomodulating regulatory T-cell (Treg) therapy is a promising strategy in autoimmunity and transplantation. However, to achieve full clinical efficacy, better understanding of in vivo human Treg biology is warranted. Here, we demonstrate that in contrast to blood and bone marrow Tregs, which showed a resting phenotype, the majority of CD4(pos)CD25(pos)CD127(neg)FoxP3(pos) Tregs in secondary lymphoid organs were proliferating activated CD69(pos)CD45RA(neg) cells with a hyperdemethylated FOXP3 gene and a broad T-cell receptor-V beta repertoire, implying polyclonal activation. Activated CD69(pos) Tregs were distributed over both T-cell and B-cell areas, distant from Aire(pos) and CD11c(pos) cells. In contrast to the anergic peripheral blood Tregs, lymphoid organ Tregs had significant ex vivo proliferative capacity and produced cytokines like interleukin-2, while revealing similar suppressive potential. Also, next to Treg-expressing chemokine receptors important for a prolonged stay in lymphoid organs, a significant part of the cells expressed peripheral tissue-associated, functional homing markers. In conclusion, our data suggest that human secondary lymphoid organs aid in the maintenance and regulation of Treg function and homeostasis. This knowledge may be exploited for further optimization of Treg immunotherapy, for example, by ex vivo selection of Tregs with capacity to migrate to lymphoid organs providing an in vivo platform for further Treg expansion.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)2213-2223
Number of pages11
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Research programs

  • EMC MM-04-20-01
  • EMC MM-04-47-07

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