Diabetes 2007 Mar;56(3):604-12
Department of Pathology, College of Medicine, University of Florida, 1600 SW Archer Rd., Gainesville, FL 32610-0275, USA.
Regulatory T-cells (Tregs) play a critical role in maintaining dominant peripheral tolerance. Previous characterizations of Tregs in type 1 diabetes have used antibodies against CD4 and alpha-chain of the interleukin-2 receptor complex (CD25). This report extends those investigations by the addition of a more lineage-specific marker for Tregs, transcription factor forkhead box P3 (FOXP3), in subjects with type 1 diabetes, their first-degree relatives, and healthy control subjects. With inclusion of this marker, two predominant populations of CD4(+)CD25(+) T-cells were identified: CD4(+)CD25(+)FOXP3(+) as well as CD4(+)FOXP3(-) T-cells expressing low levels of CD25 (CD4(+)CD25(LOW)FOXP3(-)). In all study groups, the frequency of CD4(+)CD25(+)FOXP3(+) cells was age independent, whereas CD4(+)CD25(LOW)FOXP3(-) cell frequencies strongly associated with age. In terms of additional markers for delineating cells of Treg lineage, FOXP3(+) cells were CD127(-) to CD127(LOW) whereas CD25(+) cells were less restricted in their expression of this marker, with CD127 expressed across a continuum of levels. Importantly, no differences were observed in the frequency of CD4(+)CD25(+)FOXP3(+) T-cells in individuals with or at varying degrees of risk for type 1 diabetes. These investigations suggest that altered peripheral blood frequencies of Tregs, as defined by the expression of FOXP3, are not specifically associated with type 1 diabetes and continue to highlight age as an important variable in analysis of immune regulation.