Phenotypic classification of human CD4+ T cell subsets and their differentiation

Int Immunol. 2008 Sep;20(9):1189-99. doi: 10.1093/intimm/dxn075. Epub 2008 Jul 17.


CD4(+) T cells have T(h) cell function and include two major functional subsets, T(h)1 and T(h)2. However, there are a restricted number of studies concerning phenotypic classification of human CD4(+) T cells. Here by using seven- and eight-color flow cytometric analysis, we investigated the function of the subsets classified by four markers, CD27, CD28, CD45RA and CCR7. Five major subsets were identified by using these markers. These subsets showed different patterns of cytokine production after they were stimulated with phorbol myristate acetate and ionomycin. The analyses of cytokine production suggested that CCR7(+)CD45RA(+)CD27(+)CD28(+), CCR7(+)CD45RA(-)CD27(+)CD28(+) and CCR7(-)CD45RA(-)CD27(+)CD28(+) subsets were naive, central memory and effector memory T cells, respectively, whereas CCR7(-)CD45RA(-)CD27(-)CD28(+) and CCR7(-)CD45RA(-)CD27(-)CD28(-) subsets included T(h)1 and T(h)2 cells. The analysis of cytokine production by these subsets stimulated with anti-CD3 and anti-CD28 mAbs or with human cytomegalovirus antigens showed that IFN-gamma production was significantly higher in the CCR7(-)CD45RA(-)CD27(-)CD28(-) subset than in other subsets and that both CCR7(-)CD45RA(-)CD27(-)CD28(+) and CCR7(-)CD45RA(-)CD27(-)CD28(-) subsets produced a higher level of IL-4 than did other subsets. Our analyses demonstrated that the CCR7(-)CD45RA(-)CD27(-)CD28(-) subset predominantly included T(h)1 effector cells and that CCR7(-)CD45RA(-)CD27(-)CD28(+) subsets included T(h)1 and T(h)2 effector memory/effector cells as well as unclassified cells. The analysis of classification by using these four markers also suggested the differentiation pathway of human CD4(+) T cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • CD28 Antigens / metabolism
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / classification*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / cytology*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Leukocyte Common Antigens / metabolism
  • Receptors, CCR7 / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / classification
  • Th1 Cells / immunology
  • Th2 Cells / immunology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor Receptor Superfamily, Member 7 / metabolism


  • CD28 Antigens
  • Cytokines
  • Receptors, CCR7
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor Receptor Superfamily, Member 7
  • Leukocyte Common Antigens