Stability of human rapamycin-expanded CD4 +CD25 + T regulatory cells

Eleonora Tresoldi, Ilaria Dell'Albani, Angela Stabilini, Tatiana Jofra, Andrea Valle, Nicola Gagliani, Attilio Bondanza, Maria Grazia Roncarolo, Manuela Battaglia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background The clinical use of ex vivo-expanded T-regulatory cells for the treatment of T-cell-mediated diseases has gained increasing momentum. However, the recent demonstration that FOXP3 + Tregulatory cells may contain interleukin-17-producing cells and that they can convert into effector cells once transferred in vivo raises significant doubts about their safety. We previously showed that rapamycin permits the ex vivo expansion of FOXP3 + T-regulatory cells while impairing the proliferation of non-T-regulatory cells. Here we investigated the Th17-cell content and the in vivo stability of rapamycin-expanded T-regulatory cells as pertinent aspects of cell-based therapy. Design and Methods T-regulatory-enriched cells were isolated from healthy volunteers and were expanded ex vivo with rapamycin with a pre-clinical applicable protocol. T-regulatory cells cultured with and without rapamycin were compared for their regulatory activity, content of pro-inflammatory cells and stability. Results We found that CD4 +CCR6 +CD161 + T cells (i.e., precursor/committed Th17 cells) contaminate the T-regulatory cells cultured ex vivo in the absence of rapamycin. In addition, Th17 cells do not expand when rapamycin-treated T-regulatory cells are exposed to a "Th17-favorable" environment. Rapamycin-expanded T-regulatory cells maintain their in vitro regulatory phenotype even after in vivo transfer into immunodeficient NOD-SCID mice despite being exposed to the irradiation-induced pro-inflammatory environment. Importantly, no additional rapamycin treatment, either in vitro or in vivo, is required to keep their phenotype fixed. Conclusions These data demonstrate that rapamycin secures ex vivo-expanded human T-regulatory cells and provide additional justification for their clinical use in future cell therapy-based trials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1357-1365
Number of pages9
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2011


  • Cell therapy
  • Ex vivo expansion
  • Rapamycin
  • T-regulatory cells
  • T-regulatory-cell stability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology


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