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Free Content Age-related changes in the occurrence and characteristics of thymic CD4+ CD25+ T cells in mice

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Summary

Natural regulatory CD4+ CD25+ T cells play an important role in preventing autoimmunity by maintaining self-tolerance. They express CD25 constitutively and are produced in the thymus as a functionally mature T-cell population. Changes in the potential of these cells to regulate the activity of conventional effector lymphocytes may contribute to an increased susceptibility to infection, cancer and age-associated autoimmune diseases. In this study we demonstrated that the thymi of aged mice are populated by a higher percentage of CD4+ CD25+ thymocytes than in young animals. The expression of several surface markers (CD69, CD5, CD28, CTLA-4, CD122, FOXP3), usually used to characterize the phenotype of CD4+ CD25+ T regulatory cells, was compared between young and aged mice. We also examined the ability of sorted thymus-deriving regulatory T cells of young and aged BALB/c mice to inhibit the proliferation of lymph node lymphocytes activated in vitro. Natural regulatory T cells isolated from the thymi of young mice suppress the proliferation of responder lymph node cells. We demonstrated that thymus-deriving CD4+ CD25+ T cells of old mice maintain their potential to suppress the proliferation of activated responder lymphocytes of young mice. However, their potential to inhibit the proliferation of old responder T cells is abrogated. Differences in the occurrence and activity of CD4+ CD25+ thymocytes between young and old animals are discussed in relation to the expression of these surface markers.
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Keywords: CD4+ CD25+ regulatory T cells; ageing; natural regulatory T cells; thymus-deriving regulatory T cells

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2007

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