In this study, we expanded regulatory T cells (Tregs) ex vivo from CD4(+) CD25(+) T cells from cord blood (CB) and CD4(+) CD25(+) CD127(-) T cells from adult peripheral blood (APB) and compared the suppressive functions of the newly generated Tregs. The Tregs from CB and APB were expanded either in two cycles with a polyclonal stimulus or in two cycles with an alloantigen stimulus in the first cycle and a polyclonal stimulus in the second cycle. Cell yield after Treg expansion with polyclonal stimulation was greater than that of Tregs expanded with combined alloantigen and polyclonal stimulation. The expanded Tregs expressed high levels of Foxp3, CD39 and cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen-4 and low levels of CD127, interleukin-2 and interferon-γ. After two cycles of expansion, the CB Tregs maintained expression of the GARP gene and showed greater suppressive function than APB Tregs. The CB Tregs that were expanded with two cycles of polyclonal stimulation suppressed not only the polyclonal antigen-driven responder T (T(resp)) cell proliferation but also the HLA mismatched dendritic cell-driven T(resp) cell proliferation. When CB and APB Tregs were expanded with a primary alloantigen stimulus followed by a secondary polyclonal stimulus, the Tregs showed a potent, antigen-specific suppressive capacity. The Tregs expanded with two cycles of polyclonal stimulation from both CB and APB alleviated acute graft-versus-host disease symptoms and prolonged survival in a murine model of graft-versus-host disease. In conclusion, CB Tregs expanded with two cycles of polyclonal stimulation had a stronger immunosuppressive function than APB Tregs. It is feasible to obtain human functional alloantigen-specific Tregs expanded ex vivo from CB and APB in large numbers.
© 2012 The Authors. Immunology © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.