Date: 07 Jan 2011

Flow Cytometric Profiling of Mature and Developing Regulatory T Cells in the Thymus

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Abstract

Natural Regulatory T (Treg) cells are a subset of CD4+ T cells characterized by expression of the transcription factor Foxp3 and the ability to suppress immune responses. Treg cells develop in the thymus in response to highly specific interactions between the T cell receptor (TCR) and self-antigens. These processes can be recapitulated in antigen-specific systems using transgenic mice that coexpress a TCR with its cognate peptide as a neoself-antigen. Here, we describe a method for using such a system to establish a flow cytometric profile of phenotype markers expressed by developing and mature Treg cells in the thymus. Our approach is to compare antigen-specific thymocytes developing in the presence or absence of Treg cell-selecting ligands to identify phenotypic changes that characterize thymocytes undergoing selection into the Treg cell lineage.