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Regulatory T cells (Tregs) are key players of immune regulation/dysregulation both in physiological and pathophysiological settings. Despite significant advances in understanding Treg function, there is still a pressing need to define reliable and specific markers that can distinguish different Treg subpopulations. Herein we show for the first time that markers of activated Tregs [latency associated peptide (LAP) and glycoprotein A repetitions predominant (GARP, or LRRC32)] are expressed on CD4+FoxP3- T cells expressing Helios (FoxP3-Helios+) in the steady state. Following TCR activation, GARP/LAP are up-regulated on CD4+Helios+ T cells regardless of FoxP3 expression (FoxP3+/-Helios+). We show that CD4+GARP+/-LAP+ Tregs make IL-10 immunosuppressive cytokine but not IFN-γ effector cytokine. Further characterization of FoxP3/Helios subpopulations showed that FoxP3+Helios+ Tregs proliferate in vitro significantly less than FoxP3+Helios- Tregs upon TCR stimulation. Unlike FoxP3+Helios- Tregs, FoxP3+Helios+ Tregs secrete IL-10 but not IFN-γ or IL-2, confirming they are bona fide Tregs with immunosuppressive characteristics. Taken together, Helios, and not FoxP3, is the marker of activated Tregs expressing GARP/LAP, and FoxP3+Helios+ Tregs have more suppressive characteristics, compared with FoxP3+Helios- Tregs. Our work implies that therapeutic modalities for treating autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, allergies and graft rejection should be designed to induce and/or expand FoxP3+Helios+ Tregs, while therapies against cancers or infectious diseases should avoid such expansion/induction.
Cell-based therapy with CD4 + FOXP3 + Regulatory T cells (Tregs) is a promising strategy to limit organ rejection and graft-versus-host disease. Ongoing clinical applications have yet to consider how human Tregs could be modified to direct their migration to specific inflammation sites and/or tissues for more targeted immunosuppression. We show here that stable, homing-receptor-tailored human Tregs can be generated from thymic Tregs isolated from pediatric thymus or adult blood. To direct migration to Th1-inflammatory sites, addition of IFN-γ and IL-12 during Treg expansion produced suppressive, epigenetically-stable CXCR3 + TBET + FOXP3 + Th1-Tregs. CXCR3 remained expressed after injection in vivo and Th1-Tregs migrated efficiently towards CXCL10 in vitro. To induce tissue-specific migration, addition of retinoic acid (RA) during Treg expansion induced expression of the gut-homing receptors α4β7-integrin and CCR9. FOXP3 + RA-Tregs had elevated expression of the functional markers LAP and GARP, increased suppressive capacity in vitro and migrated efficiently to healthy and inflamed intestine after injection into mice. Homing-receptor-tailored Tregs were epigenetically stable even after long-term exposure to inflammatory conditions, suppressive in vivo and characterized by Th1- or gut-homing-specific transcriptomes. Tailoring human thymic Treg homing during in vitro expansion offers a new and clinically-applicable approach to improving the potency and specificity of Treg therapy. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved. 153554b96e