Phenotypic characterization of regulatory T cells in the human decidua


Dr Jenni Heikkinen, Turku Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Department of Medical Microbiology, Turku University, Kiinamyllynkatu 13, FIN-20520 Turku, Finland.


Pregnancy is a unique situation for the maternal immune system. We have studied and identified a CD4+CD25+ regulatory T (Treg) cell population isolated from the human decidua. This mucosal surface in the uterus is in direct contact with semiallogenic fetal cells. We observed that about 14% of the decidual CD4+ T cells have the CD4+CD25+ phenotype. The decidual CD4+CD25+ T cells expressed high frequency of intracellular CTLA-4 (CTLA-4i). The majority of CD4+CD25+CTLA-4i+ cells were also positive for GITR and OX40, typical markers for human Treg cells. The frequency of CD4+CD25+ T cells in the peripheral blood from pregnant women was found to be increased during the first and second trimester of gestation when compared to nonpregnant controls. Being an important molecule for Treg cells, the role of CTLA-4 in the regulation of indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) expression was also examined. The stimulation with CTLA-4Ig did not increase IDO mRNA expression in CD14+ cells from pregnant women, while IFN-γ was observed to up-regulate IDO expression. The presence of Treg cells in the human decidua suggests that these cells are important in protecting the fetus from alloreactive immune responses at the maternal–fetal interface.