T cells stimulated in vitro have a suppressive function but do not contain only regulatory T cells

E. Valencic, E. Piscianz, A. Tommasini, M. Granzotto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The generation of regulatory T cells (Tregs) in vitro represents an attractive possibility to set up cellular therapies that could prevent and cure autoimmune disorders. Different methods have been proposed to generate Tregs in vitro and to evaluate their phenotype and function. Moreover, the overlap between generation of activated and regulatory cells could often be underestimated. We showed that in vitro treatment of CD4+ CD25- lymphocytes with different stimuli leads to a good expression of CD25 and forkhead box P3 (FoxP3) on most cells, but to a full Treg phenotype (including CD127 negativity) in only a minor percentage of cells, ranging from 17.38% of cells treated with phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) to 50.91% of cells treated with T cell receptor (TCR) stimulation in association with transforming growth factor (TGF)-β. Some suppressive activity was demonstrated for T cells activated with all the different stimuli. However, while suppression mediated by TCR/TGF-β treated T cells was associated with an inhibition of both interleukin (IL)-2 and interferon (IFN)-γ in the co-culture supernatant, the suppression observed for PHA-activated cells occurred in the presence of large amounts of these cytokines. In conclusion, also taking into account other recent publications, caution should be taken in interpretation of data in the field of regulatory T cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)561-566
Number of pages6
JournalClinical and Experimental Immunology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007


  • Activation
  • Cytokines
  • Proliferation
  • Regulatory T cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology


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