Lymphocyte populations in human lymph nodes. Alterations in CD4+ CD25+ T regulatory cell phenotype and T-cell receptor Vbeta repertoire

Immunology. 2003 Nov;110(3):304-12. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2567.2003.01742.x.


Here we provide a description of lymphocyte populations in human lymph nodes (LN) with a special emphasis on the CD4+ lymphocyte population constitutively expressing CD25 at a high level and endowed with immunoregulatory properties [T regulatory (Treg) cells]. Lymph nodes were analysed by multicolour flow cytometry in parallel with correspondent peripheral blood (PB). Immunomagnetically purified Treg cells were tested for anergy and suppressive activity in a CD3/T-cell receptor (TCR)-driven proliferation assay. Compared to PB, there was a reduced T/B lymphocyte ratio in LN. Both LN and PB contained a similar proportion of CD4+ lymphocytes but, conversely, CD8+ lymphocytes were less represented in PB, with a consequent increase in the ratio of CD4+/CD8+ natural killer cells were <2% (PB range 6-22%). No significant differences existed in the frequency of the other lymphocyte subpopulations examined (naïve-type CD4+ and CD8+ lymphocytes, activated B and CD4+ lymphocytes, and effector-type CD8+ lymphocytes). LN and PB contained similar percentages of CD4+ lymphocytes constitutively expressing intermediate or high levels of CD25. CD4+ CD25++ cells constitutively coexpressed high levels of CD152 and were therefore identified as Treg cells. Treg cells in LN and PB differed in terms of CD45RB, HLA-DR, CD45RO, and CD62L expression. Also the TCRVbeta repertoire diverged between Treg cells from LN and PB. Similar to Treg cells from PB, Treg cells from LN were anergic and efficiently inhibited other CD4+ and CD8+ lymphocyte proliferation. This study extends the information on the diversities in lymphocyte composition between human LN and PB, and reports for the first time a description of the phenotypic and functional characteristics of Treg cells in human LN, highlighting the importance of the LN microenvironment in shaping the surface phenotype of Treg cells.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antigens, CD
  • Antigens, Differentiation / metabolism
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CTLA-4 Antigen
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Lymph Nodes / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta / metabolism
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2 / metabolism


  • Antigens, CD
  • Antigens, Differentiation
  • CTLA-4 Antigen
  • CTLA4 protein, human
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2