Adenosine deaminase (ADA) is responsible for the deamination of immunosuppressive adenosine to inosine. In human T lymphocytes, ADA is associated with dipeptidyl peptidase IV (CD26). ADA expression and activity were evaluated in regulatory T cells (Treg) and CD4(+) T effector cells (Teff) of patients with head and neck squamous cell cancer (HNSCC). CD4(+)CD39(+) and CD4(+)CD39(neg) T cells were isolated by single-cell sorting from the peripheral blood of 15 HNSCC patients and 15 healthy donors (NC). CD26/ADA expression in these cells was studied by multicolor flow cytometry, confocal microscopy, RT-PCR and immunohistochemistry in tumor tissues. ADA activity was evaluated by mass spectrometry, suppression of Teff proliferation in CFSE assays and cytokine production by Luminex. CD4(+)CD39(+) Treg had low and CD4(+)CD39(neg) Teff high CD26/ADA expression and ADA activity in NC or HNSCC. The frequency and suppressor activity of CD39(+)CD26(neg) Treg were elevated in patients relative to NC (p < 0.01). However, ADA activity in patients' CD4(+)CD39(neg) Teff was decreased (p < 0.05), resulting in extracellular adenosine accumulation. Also, patients' Teff were more sensitive to inhibitory signals delivered via adenosine receptors. IL-2, IL12 and INFγ upregulated ADA expression and activity in CD4(+)CD39(neg) Teff, whereas IL-10, PGE(2) and CADO downregulated it. The differentially expressed CD26/ADA can serve as surface markers for functionally-active CD39(+)CD26(neg) Treg.