While murine CD4(+) CD39(+) regulatory T cells (T(reg)) co-express CD73 and hydrolyze exogenous (e) adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to immunosuppressive adenosine (ADO), surface co-expression of CD73 on human circulating CD4(+) CD39(+) T(reg) is rare. Therefore, the ability of human T(reg) to produce and utilize ADO for suppression remains unclear. Using mass spectrometry, we measured nucleoside production by subsets of human CD4(+) CD39(+) and CD4(+) CD39(-)CD73(+) T cells or CD19(+) B cells isolated from blood of 30 volunteers and 14 cancer patients. CD39 and CD73 expression was evaluated by flow cytometry, Western blots, confocal microscopy or reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Circulating CD4(+) CD39(+) T(reg) which hydrolyzed eATP to 5'-AMP contained few intracytoplasmic granules and had low CD73 mRNA levels. Only ∼1% of these T(reg) were CD39(+) CD73(+) . In contrast, CD4(+) CD39(neg) CD73(+) T cells contained numerous CD73(+) granules in the cytoplasm and strongly expressed surface CD73. In vitro-generated T(reg) (Tr1) and most B cells were CD39(+) CD73(+) . All these CD73(+) T cell subsets and B cells hydrolyzed 5'-AMP to ADO. Exosomes isolated from plasma of normal control (NC) or cancer patients carried enzymatically active CD39 and CD73(+) and, when supplied with eATP, hydrolyzed it to ADO. Only CD4(+) CD39(+) T(reg) co-incubated with CD4(+) CD73(+) T cells, B cells or CD39(+) CD73(+) exosomes produced ADO. Thus, contact with membrane-tethered CD73 was sufficient for ADO production by CD4(+) CD39(+) T(reg). In microenvironments containing CD4(+) CD73(+) T cells, B cells or CD39(+) CD73(+) exosomes, CD73 is readily available to CD4(+) CD39(+) CD73(neg) T(reg) for the production of immunosuppressive ADO.
Keywords: adenosine; ectonucleotidases; exosomes; human tTreg; immune suppression; pTreg.
© 2014 British Society for Immunology.