Naturally occurring regulatory T cells (Treg) suppress the activation of antigen-responsive T cells in a cell contact-dependent manner. In order to investigate the impact of soluble mediators and receptor-ligand interactions on the interplay between naive T cells and Treg, a reproducible suppressor cell assay which functions in the absence of additional feeder cells or antigen-presenting cells is mandatory. Here, we describe such a method which is suited to study the modulation of responder T cell/Treg interactions in vitro. Treg were isolated from negatively purified total human CD4+ T cells by positive selection using anti-CD25 monoclonal antibody (MoAb)-coated Dynabeads followed by a detachment step. The remaining CD4+ CD25- responder T cells were cocultured with CD4+ CD25+ Treg in the presence of T-cell Activation/Expansion Beads from Miltenyi Biotec pre-coated with anti-CD3 plus anti-CD28 monoclonal antibody (MoAb). The optimal concentration for coating was 5 microg/ml for both MoAb. At this concentration, strong proliferation of responder T cells was elicited which was almost completely suppressed by Treg at 1:1 cell ratios. When higher concentrations of anti-CD3/anti-CD28 MoAb were used for coating, Treg also showed some degree of proliferation. The optimized suppressor assay proved to be highly reproducible and was used here to confirm the partial or complete reversal of Treg-mediated T-cell suppression by some cytokines (IL-2, IL-15), soluble IL-6 receptor/IL-6 fusion protein and recombinant GITR-ligand. Furthermore, our data confirm that Treg do not need other cell types to suppress proliferation of CD4+ CD25- responder T cells.