, Volume 88, Issue 6, pp 577-588

Reciprocal granzyme/perforin-mediated death of human regulatory and responder T cells is regulated by interleukin-2 (IL-2)

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Human CD4+CD25highFOXP3+ T regulatory cells (Treg) can suppress responder T cell (RC) functions by various mechanisms. In co-cultures of Treg and autologous activated RC, both cell subsets up-regulate the expression of granzymes and perforin, which might contribute to Treg-mediated suppression. Here, we investigate the sensitivity and resistance of Treg and RC to granzyme/perforin-mediated death. CD4+CD25neg RC were single cell-sorted from the peripheral blood of 25 cancer patients and 15 normal controls. These RC were carboxyfluorescein diacetate succinimidyl ester (CFSE) labeled and co-cultured with autologous CD4+CD25highFOXP3+ Treg ± 150 or ±1,000 IU/mL of interleukin-2 (IL-2) to evaluate suppression of RC proliferation. In addition, survival of the cells co-cultured for 24 h and 5 days was measured using a flow-based cytotoxicity assay. Freshly isolated Treg and RC expressed granzyme A (GrA), granzyme B (GrB), and perforin. Percentages of positive cells were higher in cancer patients than controls (p < 0.01) and increased upon OKT3 and IL-2 stimulation. Treg, co-cultured with RC at 150 IU/mL of IL-2, no longer expressed cytotoxins and became susceptible to RC-mediated, granzyme/perforin-dependent death. However, in co-cultures with 1,000 IU/mL of IL-2, Treg became resistant to apoptosis and induced GrB-dependent, perforin-independent death of RC. When the GrB inhibitor I or GrB-specific and GrA-specific small inhibitory ribonucleic acids were used to block the granzyme pathway in Treg, RC death, and Treg-mediated suppression of RC, proliferation were significantly inhibited. Human CD4+CD25high Treg and CD4+CD25neg RC reciprocally regulate death/growth arrest by differentially utilizing the granzyme–perforin pathway depending on IL-2 concentrations.