As a tumour necrosis factor receptor superfamily member, 4-1BB (CD137) is preferentially expressed in CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) and has been suggested to play an important role in regulating the generation or function of Tregs. Recent studies of human Tregs have shown that blood CD4+CD25high T cells were much closer to Tregs in terms of their functionality. Furthermore, CD4+CD25high Tregs have been found to have a decreased effector function in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). In this study, we examined the expression of 4-1BB and soluble 4-1BB (s4-1BB) protein levels in the peripheral blood of MS patients. Compared with healthy controls, MS patients had decreased 4-1BB expression in their CD4+C25high Tregs and increased plasma s4-1BB protein levels. Moreover, the plasma s4-1BB levels of MS patients were shown to be inversely correlated with the 4-1BB surface expression of CD4+CD25high Tregs. The down-regulated 4-1BB expression on CD4+CD25high Tregs of MS patients may be involved in the impaired immunoactivity of these Tregs. The elevated s4-1BB levels may, at least in part, function as a self-regulatory attempt to inhibit antigen-driven proliferation of Tregs or their immunosuppressive activity.