Human CD25+ regulatory T cells: two subsets defined by the integrins alpha 4 beta 7 or alpha 4 beta 1 confer distinct suppressive properties upon CD4+ T helper cells

Eur J Immunol. 2004 May;34(5):1303-11. doi: 10.1002/eji.200324656.


Down-regulation of autoreactive T cell responses in vivo includes cell-contact-dependent as well as contact-independent mechanisms. Infectious tolerance is a contact-dependent mechanism used by naturally occurring CD25(+) T regulatory cells (Tregs) to confer suppressive activity upon conventional CD4(+) T cells thereby generating secondary T helper suppressor cells(Th(sup)), which inhibit T cell activation via soluble mediators. Here, we describe two distinct subsets of human Tregs, characterized by expression of either the alpha(4)beta(7) integrin or the alpha(4)beta(1) integrin. Upon activation, both subsets show an enhanced expression of FoxP3, recently described as a key transcription factor of murine Tregs. In addition, both are able to convey suppressive capacity to conventional CD4(+) T cells. However, the properties of Treg subsets are rather distinct: alpha(4)beta(7) (+)Tregs induce IL-10-producing Th(sup) (Tr1-like), whereas alpha(4)beta(1) (+) Tregs induce TGF-beta-producing Th(sup) (Th3-like). Our findings reconcile conflicting results by clearly demonstrating that suppression through naturally occurring CD25(+) Tregs is primary cell-contact-dependent but is subsequently followed by cell-contact-independent T cell inhibition mediated by second-generation Tr1- and Th3-like Th(sup) via the soluble factors IL-10 and TGF-beta.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Integrins / metabolism*
  • Interleukin-10 / metabolism
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2 / metabolism*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / classification
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / metabolism*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Helper-Inducer / metabolism*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism


  • Integrins
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Interleukin-10