T follicular regulatory (Tfr) cells are a population of CD4+ T cells that express regulatory T cell markers and have been shown to suppress humoral immunity. However, the precise mechanisms and location of Tfr-mediated suppression in the lymph node (LN) microenvironment are unknown. Using highly multiplexed quantitative imaging and functional assays, we examined the spatial distribution, suppressive function, and preferred interacting partners of Tfr cells in human mesenteric LNs. We find that the majority of Tfr cells express low levels of PD-1 and reside at the border between the T cell zone and B cell follicle, with very few found in the germinal centers (GCs). Although PD-1+ Tfr cells expressed higher levels of CD38, CTLA-4, and GARP than PD-1Neg Tfr cells, both potently suppressed antibody production in vitro. These findings highlight the phenotypic diversity of human Tfr cells and suggest that Tfr-mediated suppression is most efficient at the T-B border and within the follicle, not in the GC.
© 2018 Sayin et al.