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Foxp3 expression on normal and leukemic CD4+CD25+ T cells implicated in human T-cell leukemia virus type-1 is inconsistent with Treg cells

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Foxp3 is a master gene of Treg cells, a novel subset of CD4+ T cells primarily expressing CD25. We describe here different features in Foxp3 expression profile between normal and leukemic CD4+CD25+ T cells, using peripheral blood samples from healthy controls (HCs), human T-cell leukemia virus type-1 (HTLV-1)-infected asymptomatic carriers (ACs), patients with adult T-cell leukemia (ATL), and various hematopoietic cell lines. The majority of CD4+CD25+ T cells in HCs were positive for Foxp3, but not all CD4+CD25+ T cells in ACs were positive, indicating that Foxp3 expression is not always linked to CD25 expression in normal T cells. Leukemic (ATL) T cells constitutively expressing CD25 were characteristic of heterogeneous Foxp3 expression, such as intra- and inter-case heterogeneity in intensity, inconsistency with CD25 expression, and a discrepancy in the mRNA and its protein expression. Surprisingly, a discernible amount of Foxp3 mRNA was detectable even in most cell lines without CD25 expression, a small fraction of which was positive for the Foxp3 proteins. The subcellular localization of Foxp3 in HTLV-1-infected cell lines was mainly cytoplasmic, different from that of primary ATL cells. These findings indicate that Foxp3 has two facets: essential Treg identity and molecular mimicry secondary to tumorigenesis. Conclusively, Foxp3 in normal T cells, but not mRNA, is basically potent at discriminating a subset of Treg cells from CD25+ T-cell populations, whereas the modulation of Foxp3 expression in leukemic T cells could be implicated in oncogenesis and has a potentially useful clinical role.
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Keywords: CD25; Foxp3; Treg; adult T-cell leukemia; human T-cell leukemia virus type-1

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Sysmex Corporation, Wakinohama-Kaigandori, Chuo-ku, Kobe, Japan 2: Department of Laboratory Medicine, Nagasaki University Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Nagasaki, Japan 3: Department of Hematology, Nagasaki University Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Nagasaki, Japan

Publication date: September 1, 2008

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