Regulatory T cells (Treg) mediate amelioration of disease and immune homeostasis by inhibiting immune activation and maintaining peripheral immune tolerance. The suppressive mechanisms and clinical significance of Treg have not been completely elucidated in patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Here, we demonstrated that CD127 in combination with CD4 and CD25 can identify FoxP3(+) Treg in peripheral blood (PB) and bone marrow (BM) using multicolor flow cytometry. We showed that the CD4(+) CD25(+) CD127(lo) Treg frequencies were significantly increased and their phenotypes were different in PB from newly diagnosed AML patients compared to those from healthy volunteers (HVs). Moreover, the Treg frequencies were significantly higher in BM than those from PB in the same patients. The Treg frequencies were reduced when patients achieved complete remission (CR) and were increased when patients relapsed. The Treg frequencies at diagnosis in PB and BM of patients who had achieved CR were lower than those of patients who had persistent leukemia or died, respectively. CD4(+) CD25(+) Treg were isolated by magnetic-activated cell sorting and tested for suppressive functions in coculture with allogeneic carboxyfluorescein diacetate succinimidylester-labeled CD4(+) CD25(-) responder cells. Suppression mediated by Treg was higher in AML patients compared to HVs. No significant differences were observed in the cytokines production of Treg, including interferon-gamma (IFN-γ), interleukin (IL)-4,IL-2 and IL-10, between patients with AML and HVs. Our study suggests that Treg may play a role in the pathogenesis of AML, and sequential measurements of Treg frequency may have clinical value in the evaluation of therapeutic effects and clinical outcome.
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