Regulatory T (Treg) cells can balance normal tissue homeostasis by limiting inflammatory tissue damage, e.g. during pathogen infection, but on the other hand can also limit protective immunity induced during natural infection or following vaccination. Because most studies have focused on the role of CD4(+) Treg cells, relatively little is known about the phenotype and function of CD8(+) Treg cells, particularly in infectious diseases. Here, we describe for the first time the expression of CD39 (E-NTPDase1) on Mycobacterium-activated human CD8(+) T cells. These CD8(+) CD39(+) T cells significantly co-expressed the Treg markers CD25, Foxp3, lymphocyte activation gene-3 (LAG-3), and CC chemokine ligand 4 (CCL4), and suppressed the proliferative response of antigen-specific CD4(+) T helper-1 (Th1) cells. Pharmacological or antibody mediated blocking of CD39 function resulted in partial reversal of suppression. These data identify CD39 as a novel marker of human regulatory CD8(+) T cells and indicate that CD39 is functionally involved in suppression by CD8(+) Treg cells.
Keywords: BCG; CD39; CD8+ regulatory T (Treg) cell; Tuberculosis.
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