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Keywords:

  • Regulatory T lymphocytes;
  • Suppression;
  • Cellular activation;
  • CD134;
  • Lymphoid organs

Abstract

Naturally occurring CD4+ regulatory T cells can be identified on the basis of expression of CD25 and suppression of T cell responses in vitro after TCR triggering. Here, we demonstrate that a CD134+ subset of CD4+CD25+ T cells in naive rats suppresses antigen-specific T cell responses in vitro without additional TCR stimulation. In contrast, CD4+CD25+CD134 regulatory T cells and total CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells have suppressive activity only during simultaneous activation of responder and regulatory T cells or after in vitro pre-activation. Furthermore CD4+CD25+CD134+ T cells have a more activated phenotype than CD4+CD25+CD134 T cells, as based on the expression of CD62L, CD45RC, and MHC class II. We propose that the CD134+ regulatory T cells contain an in vivo activated and highly suppressive regulatory T cell subset. CD4+CD25+CD134+ T cells can be found in several compartments of the immune system, including spleen, lymph nodes, and blood. Interestingly though, the relative amounts of these cells within the CD4+ population and their CD134 expression levels are highest in mucosa-draining lymph nodes and lowest in blood. This suggests that the presence of CD4+CD25+CD134+ T cells indicates sites of active immune suppression.