SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • autoimmunity;
  • multiple sclerosis;
  • tolerance;
  • regulatory T cells;
  • FOXP3

Summary

CD4+ CD25high regulatory T cells (Tregs) of patients with relapsing-remitting (RR) multiple sclerosis (MS), in contrast to those of patients with secondary progressive (SP) MS, show a reduced suppressive function. In this study, we analysed forkhead box P3 (FOXP3) at the single-cell level in MS patients and controls (healthy individuals and patients with other neurological diseases) by means of intracellular flow cytometry. Our data revealed a reduced number of peripheral blood CD4+ CD25high FOXP3+ T cells and lower FOXP3 protein expression per cell in RR-MS patients than in SP-MS patients and control individuals, which was correlated with the suppressive capacity of Tregs in these patients. Interestingly, interferon (IFN)-β-treated RR-MS patients showed restored numbers of FOXP3+ Tregs. Furthermore, a higher percentage of CD4+ CD25high FOXP3+ Tregs in RR-MS patients, as compared with controls and SP-MS patients, expressed CD103 and CD49d, adhesion molecules involved in T-cell recruitment towards inflamed tissues. This was consistent with a significantly increased number of CD27+ CD25high CD4+ T cells in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), as compared with peripheral blood, in RR-MS patients. Taken together, these data show aberrant FOXP3 expression at the single-cell level correlated with Treg dysfunction in RR-MS patients. Our results also suggest that Tregs accumulate in the CSF of RR-MS patients, in an attempt to down-regulate local inflammation in the central nervous system.