Intrahepatic regulatory T cells are phenotypically distinct from their peripheral counterparts in chronic HBV patients

Clin Immunol. 2008 Dec;129(3):419-27. doi: 10.1016/j.clim.2008.07.029. Epub 2008 Sep 26.


Peripheral blood CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells (Treg) prevent the development of strong HBV-specific T cell responses in vitro. In this study, we examined the phenotype of FoxP3+ regulatory T cells in the liver of patients with a chronic HBV infection. We showed that the liver contained a population of CD4+FoxP3+ cells that did not express CD25, while these cells were absent from peripheral blood. Interestingly, intrahepatic CD25-FoxP3+CD4+ T cells demonstrated lower expression of HLA-DR and CTLA-4 as compared to their CD25+ counterparts. Patients with a high viral load have a higher proportion of regulatory T cells in the liver, but not in blood, compared to patients with a low viral load. In conclusion, the intrahepatic Treg are phenotypically distinct from peripheral blood Treg. Our data suggest that the higher proportion of intrahepatic Treg observed in patients with a high viral load may explain the lack of control of viral replication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antigens, CD / immunology
  • CD3 Complex / immunology
  • CTLA-4 Antigen
  • DNA, Viral / blood
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / immunology*
  • HLA-DR Antigens / immunology
  • Hepatitis B e Antigens / blood
  • Hepatitis B virus / growth & development*
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / blood
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / immunology*
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / virology
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-2 Receptor alpha Subunit / immunology*
  • Liver / immunology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*
  • Viral Load
  • Young Adult


  • Antigens, CD
  • CD3 Complex
  • CTLA-4 Antigen
  • CTLA4 protein, human
  • DNA, Viral
  • FOXP3 protein, human
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • HLA-DR Antigens
  • Hepatitis B e Antigens
  • Interleukin-2 Receptor alpha Subunit