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Abstract

Common variable immunodeficiency (CVID) is the most symptomatic primary antibody deficiency associated with recurrent infections and chronic inflammatory diseases as well as autoimmunity. CD4+CD25+FOXP3+ regulatory T cells (Tregs) are critical T cell subsets for maintaining self-tolerance and regulation of immune response to antigens thus play a pivotal role in preventing autoimmunity. Thirty-seven CVID patients and 18 age-/sex-matched controls were enrolled. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were obtained from both groups, and the percentage of Tregs was calculated using flow cytometry method. The mRNA expression of Tregs' surface markers cytotoxic T lymphocyte–associated antigen-4 (CTLA-4) and glucocorticoid-induced tumour necrosis factor receptor (GITR), which are associated with Tregs' inhibitory function, was compared between patients and controls by quantitative real-time PCR TaqMan method. The results revealed that the frequency of Tregs was significantly lower in CVID patients than normal individuals (P < 0.001). In addition, CVID patients with autoimmunity were found to have markedly reduced proportion of Tregs compared to those cases without autoimmune diseases (P = 0.023). A significant difference was seen in factor forkhead box P3 (FOXP3) expression between CVID patients and controls (P < 0.001). The mRNAs of CTLA-4 and GITR genes were expressed at lower levels in CVID patients compared to control group (P = 0.005 and <0.001, respectively). Our findings showed reduced proportion of Tregs in CVID patients together with downregulation of FOXP3 protein and diminished expression of inhibitory Tregs' markers. It could be concluded that all of these changes may be responsible for cellular immune dysregulation observed in these patients especially those with autoimmune manifestation.