Purpose: Regulatory T cells (T-reg) that control harmful autoimmune T cells in the periphery may also suppress the immune response against cancer. In this study we investigated the possible involvement of CD4(+)CD25(high) T-reg in the immune impairment of patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
Experimental design: The frequencies and phenotypes of CD4(+)CD25(high) T cells in the peripheral blood of AML patients were determined by flow cytometry. To assess the functional activity of CD4(+)CD25(high) T cells, CD4(+)CD25(high), and CD4(+)CD25(-) T cells were sorted from peripheral blood mononuclear cells with FACS Vantage. The immunoregulatory properties of CD4(+)CD25(high) and CD4(+)CD25(-) T cells were characterized by proliferation assays and cytokine production assays. In addition, the frequency of apoptotic and proliferating cells in CD4(+)CD25(high) T cells were respectively evaluated by 7AAD and ki67 binding cells using flow cytometry.
Results: Compared with healthy controls, AML patients had a higher proportion of CD4(+)CD25(high) T cells in peripheral blood. These cells were CD45-RA(-), CD69(-), CD45-RO(+), CD95(+), and intercellular CTLA-4(+), and secreted low levels of TNF-alpha and IL-10, but no IL-2, IL-4, IL-5, and IFN-gamma. They inhibited the proliferation and cytokine production (IL-2, IFN-gamma) of CD4(+)CD25(-) T cells, but improved IL-10 production under the co-culture of both subsets with stimulation, thus behaving as T-reg. Notably, CD4(+)CD25(high) T cells in AML patients presented significantly higher apoptosis and proliferation than that of healthy individuals.
Conclusions: The frequency of CD4(+)CD25(high) T-reg in peripheral blood in AML patients is significantly higher when compared with healthy individuals, likely due to the increasing proliferation of CD4(+)CD25(high) T cells.