The A2A adenosine receptor (A2AR)-mediated immunosuppression is firmly implicated in the life-saving down-regulation of collateral tissue damage during the anti-pathogen immune response and in highly undesirable protection of cancerous tissues during anti-tumor immune response. Therefore, depending on specific clinical situation there is a need to either weaken or strengthen the intensity of A2AR signal. While the A2AR-mediated immunosuppression was shown to be T cell autonomous in studies of effector T cells, it was not clear how A2AR stimulation affects regulatory T cells (Treg). Here we show in parallel assays that while A2AR stimulation on T cells directly inhibits their activation, there is also indirect and longer-lasting T cell inhibitory effect through modulation of Treg. A2AR stimulation expanded CD4(+) CD25(hi) FoxP3(+) cells, which also express CD39, CD73, and CTLA-4. Treg cultured with A2AR agonist showed increased expression of CTLA-4 and stronger immunosuppressive activity. There was a significant increase of Treg cell number after A2AR stimulation. The CD4(+) FoxP3(+) population contained those induced from CD4(+) CD25(-) cells, but CD4(+) FoxP3(+) cells predominantly derived from CD4(+) CD25(+) natural Treg. Thus, A2AR stimulation numerically and functionally enhanced Treg-mediated immunosuppressive mechanism. These data suggest that the A2AR-mediated stimulation of lymphocytes using A2AR agonists should be considered in protocols for ex vivo expansion of Treg before the transfer to patients in different medical applications.
Keywords: A2A adenosine receptor; adenosine; autoimmune; cancer; immunosuppression; regulatory T cells; transplantation.