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Keywords:

  • CD28;
  • Costimulation;
  • Induced gene deletion;
  • Regulatory T (Treg) cells

While the requirement for CD28 and its ligands for the generation and function of “natural” (n)Treg cells is well established, it has not been possible yet to investigate cell-intrinsic effects after interrupted CD28 expression. Here, we demonstrate a selective loss of Treg cells after disruption of the CD28 gene. The decline in Treg-cell number was accompanied by reduced homeostatic proliferation, probably due to lack of costimulation during self-antigen recognition, and by impaired Treg-cell function including downregulation of CTLA-4. The decline in Treg-cell number was unaffected by thymectomy or by the presence of CD28 expressing T cells within the same animal, indicating that impairment of peripheral homeostasis and function of nTreg cells by CD28 deletion is cell-intrinsic. In contrast, downregulation of CD25, the α chain of the IL-2R, did not occur in the presence of WT T cells, indicating that its expression does not depend on CD28 signals in cis.