Functional modulation of regulatory T cells by IL-2

Byung In Moon, Tae Hun Kim, Ju Young Seoh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The suppressive function of regulatory T cells (Tregs) is critical to the maintenance of immune homeostasis in vivo and yet, the specific identification of Tregs by phenotypic markers is not perfect. Tregs were originally identified in the CD4+CD25+ fraction of T cells, but FoxP3 expression was later included as an additional marker of Tregs as FoxP3 expression was identified as being critical to the development and function of these cells. Intracellular expression of FoxP3 makes it difficult in using to isolate live and not permeabilized cells for functional assays. As such CD4+CD25+ fraction is still frequently used for functional assays of Tregs. Although, the CD4+CD25+ fraction substantially overlaps with the FoxP3+ fraction, the minor mismatch between CD4+CD25+ and FoxP3+ fractions may confound the functional characteristics of Tregs. In this study, we isolated CD4+FoxP3+ as well as CD4+CD25+fractions from Foxp3 knock-in mice, and compared their proliferative and suppressive activity in the presence or absence of various concentrations of IL-2. Our results showed comparable patterns of proliferative and suppressive responses for both fractions, except that contrary to the CD4+CD25+ fraction the FoxP3+ fraction did not proliferate in an autocrine fashion even in response to a strong stimulation. In presence of exogenous IL-2, both CD4+CD25+ and CD4+FoxP3+ fractions were more sensitive than the CD4+CD25- responder cells in proliferative responsiveness. In addition, a low dose IL-2 enhanced whereas a high dose abrogated the suppressive activities of the CD4+CD25+ and CD4+FoxP3+ fractions. These results may provide an additional understanding of the characteristics of the various fractions of isolated Tregs based on phenotype and function and the role of varying levels of exogenous IL-2 on the suppressive activity of these cells.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0141864
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11
StatePublished - 3 Nov 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Moon et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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