The peptidase inhibitor PI16 was shown previously by microarray analysis to be over-expressed by CD4-positive/CD25-positive Treg compared with CD4-positive/CD25-negative Th cells. Using a monoclonal antibody to the human PI16 protein, we found that PI16-positive Treg have a memory (CD45RO-positive) phenotype and express higher levels of FOXP3 than PI16-negative Treg. PI16-positive Treg are functional in suppressor assays in vitro with potency similar to PI16-negative Treg. Further phenotyping of the PI16-positive Treg revealed that the chemokine receptors CCR4 and CCR6 are expressed by more of the PI16-positive/CD45RO-positive Treg compared with PI16-negative/CD45RO-positive Treg or Th cells. PI16-positive Treg showed enhanced in vitro migration towards the inflammatory chemokines CCL17 and CCL20, suggesting they can migrate to sites of inflammation. We conclude that PI16 identifies a novel distinct subset of functional memory Treg which can migrate to sites of inflammation and regulate the pro-inflammatory response at those sites.
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