Human regulatory T cell suppressive function is independent of apoptosis induction in activated effector T cells

Posted on October 25, 2009

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Vercoulen Y, Wehrens EJ, van Teijlingen NH, de Jager W, Beekman JM, Prakken BJ.

Department of Pediatric Immunology, Center for Molecular and Cellular Intervention, Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands. y.vercoulen@umcutrecht.nl

BACKGROUND: CD4(+)CD25(+)FOXP3(+) Regulatory T cells (Treg) play a central role in the immune balance to prevent autoimmune disease. One outstanding question is how Tregs suppress effector immune responses in human. Experiments in mice demonstrated that Treg restrict effector T cell (Teff) responses by deprivation of the growth factor IL-2 through Treg consumption, resulting in apoptosis of Teff. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: In this study we investigated the relevance of Teff apoptosis induction to human Treg function. To this end, we studied naturally occurring Treg (nTreg) from peripheral blood of healthy donors, and, to investigate Treg function in inflammation in vivo, Treg from synovial fluid of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) patients (SF-Treg). Both nTreg and SF-Treg suppress Teff proliferation and cytokine production efficiently as predicted. However, in contrast with murine Treg, neither nTreg nor SF-Treg induce apoptosis in Teff. Furthermore, exogenously supplied IL-2 and IL-7 reverse suppression, but do not influence apoptosis of Teff. SIGNIFICANCE: Our functional data here support that Treg are excellent clinical targets to counteract autoimmune diseases. For optimal functional outcome in human clinical trials, future work should focus on the ability of Treg to suppress proliferation and cytokine production of Teff, rather than induction of Teff apoptosis..’

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