Objective: To investigate the hypothesis that loss of suppression mediated by peripheral CD4+,CD25+ regulatory T cells is a hallmark of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Methods: Mice of the MRL/Mp strain were studied as a polygenic model of SLE. Following immunomagnetic selection, peripheral lymphoid CD25+ and CD25- CD4+ T cells were cultured independently or together in the presence of anti-CD3/CD28 monoclonal antibody-coated beads. Proliferation was assessed by measuring the incorporation of tritiated thymidine.
Results: While MRL/Mp CD4+,CD25+ regulatory T cells showed only subtle abnormalities of regulatory function in vitro, syngeneic CD4+,CD25- T cells showed significantly reduced sensitivity to suppression, as determined by crossover experiments in which MRL/Mp CD4+,CD25- T cells were cultured with H-2-matched CBA/Ca CD4+,CD25+ regulatory T cells in the presence of a polyclonal stimulus.
Conclusion: Our findings highlight a novel defect of peripheral tolerance in SLE. Identification of this defect could open new opportunities for therapeutic intervention.