Human CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells

Semin Immunol. 2004 Apr;16(2):89-98. doi: 10.1016/j.smim.2003.12.005.


In this report, we review studies of human CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells (T-reg). Although lagging a few years behind the discovery of these cells in the mouse, the equivalent population of CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells has also been isolated from human peripheral blood, thymus, lymph nodes and cord blood. In general, the characteristics of this T cell subset are strikingly similar between mouse and man. In the recent explosion of research reports on human CD4+CD25+ cells, although the majority of the characteristics ascribed to these cells appear to be consistent, contrasting results have been found primarily in regards to potential involvement of TGFbeta and production of IL-10. One explanation for this variability may reside in the fact that markedly different techniques are used to isolate human CD4+CD25+ T-reg cells and thus may result in the comparison of T-reg populations that differ in cellular composition and/or activation state. Another potential explanation for differences in human T-reg function may rest on the extreme variability of the culture conditions and TCR stimuli that have been used to test the functional properties of these cells in vitro. The strength of the TCR signal provided to the culture greatly affects the functional outcome of the co-culture and can result in the difference between suppression and full activation. Surprisingly, it appears that stronger stimulation has a greater and more rapid effect on the T-resp cell than on the T-reg cell as it causes T-resp cells to quickly become resistant to suppression. Thus, the details of in vitro culture conditions may at least partially account for disparate findings in regard to the functional characterization of human CD4+CD25+ cells. Here we review the evidence regarding the identification of human CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells and their possible mechanism(s) of function.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD / analysis
  • Antigens, CD / immunology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / chemistry
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / physiology
  • Cell Division / immunology
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Cell Separation / methods
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / immunology
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / physiology
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance / immunology
  • Infections / immunology
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2 / immunology*
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2 / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / chemistry
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / chemistry
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / physiology


  • Antigens, CD
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • FOXP3 protein, human
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2