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Keywords:

  • Costimulation;
  • Rodent;
  • Suppression;
  • Tolerance;
  • Treg cell

Costimulatory signals are required for priming and activation of naive T cells, while it is less clear how they contribute to induction of regulatory T (Treg)-cell activity. We previously reported that the blockade of the B7-CD28 and CD40L-CD40 interaction efficiently suppresses allogeneic T-cell activation in vivo. This was characterized by an initial rise in Foxp3+ cells, followed by depletion of host-reactive T cells. To further investigate effects of costimulatory blockade on Treg cells, we used an in vitro model of allogeneic CD4+ cell activation. When CTLA-4Ig and anti-CD40L mAb (MR1) were added to the cultures, T-cell proliferation and IL-2 production were strongly reduced. However, Foxp3+ cells proliferated and acquired suppressive activity. They suppressed activation of syngeneic CD4+ cells much more efficiently than did freshly isolated Treg cells. CD4+ cells activated by allogeneic cells in the presence of MR1 and CTLA-4Ig were hyporesponsive on restimulation, but their response was restored to that of naive CD4+ cells when Foxp3+ Treg cells were removed. We conclude that natural Treg cells are less dependent on B7-CD28 or CD40-CD40L costimulation compared with Foxp3 T cells. Reduced costimulation therefore alters the balance between Teff and Treg-cell activation in favor of Treg-cell activity.