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It is clear that regulatory T cells (Treg) have an important role in preventing autoimmunity and modulating responses to pathogens. Full characterization of Treg cell function in human patients would be greatly facilitated by practical methods for expanding Treg in vitro. Methods for expansion have been reported but whether expression of surface and intracellular markers associated with freshly isolated Treg following expansion correlates with the maintenance of function is unclear. Our aim was to investigate the various methods of expansion and to correlate regulatory activity with expression of these markers. We show that, of the markers associated with freshly isolated Treg, only CD27 expression correlated with regulatory activity and could be used to isolate cells with regulatory activity from lines expanded from CD4+ CD25+ cells. Also, cells expressing high levels of the transcription factor forkhead box P3 (Foxp3) were confined to the CD27+ population within these lines. Expression of CD27 by cells in lines expanded from CD4+ CD25- cells varied depending on the stimulus used for expansion, but these lines did not have significant regulatory activity even when the CD27+ cells were tested. Analysis of synovial CD4+ CD25+ cells from reactive arthritis patients revealed that they were predominantly CD27 positive. This also applied to CD25(high) and CD25(intermediate) CD4+ cells, despite their reported different abilities to regulate. We conclude that, whilst CD27 is useful for identifying Treg in the cell lines obtained after expansion of CD4+ CD25+ cells, its expression may not reliably identify the Treg cell population in other T-cell populations such as those found in joints.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





129 - 139


Department of Medicine, University of Cambridge, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, UK.


Synovial Fluid, T-Lymphocyte Subsets, Cells, Cultured, Cell Line, Humans, Arthritis, Reactive, Flow Cytometry, Cell Separation, Immunophenotyping, Lymphocyte Activation, Cell Proliferation, T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory, Forkhead Transcription Factors, Interleukin-2 Receptor alpha Subunit, Biomarkers, Tumor Necrosis Factor Receptor Superfamily, Member 7