Objective To address the role of cord blood (CB) CD25+CD4 + T cells, the gene expressions and function of this subset were analyzed. Materials and methods CD25+CD4+ T cells fractionated from CB of term and preterm infants were subjected to flow cytometry, quantitative polymerase chain reaction analysis for cytokines, costimulatory molecules, and transcription factors, and functional assays. Results Human preterm CB contained a high proportion of CD25+CD4 + T cells that declined with gestational age to the level of adult peripheral blood (PB). CD25+ or CD25-CD4+ T cells in CB had a higher frequency of CD45RA+ and CD38+ cells than in PB. CB CD25+CD4+ T cells less frequently expressed CD45RO, CD71, and HLA-DR than PB CD25+CD4+ T cells, despite similar expressions on CB and PB CD25-CD4+ T cells. No expression of IL-10, transforming growth factor-β, interleukin-4, and interferon-γ mRNA differed between CB CD25 +CD4+ and CD25-CD4+ T cells, in contrast to the high interleukin-10 expression in PB CD25+CD4 + T cells. CTLA-4 was more transcribed in CB and PB CD25 +CD4+ T cells than in the counterpart CD25 -CD4+ T cells. CD28 or ICOS was similarly expressed in CB and PB T cells. CB CD25+CD4+ T cells effectively suppressed the proliferation of CB CD25-CD4+ T cells in a dose-dependent manner. Human CB and PB CD25+CD4+ T cells preferentially transcribed Foxp3, which governs the regulatory function of this subset in mice. Conclusions These results suggest that CB contains CD25 +CD4+ regulatory T cells as a functionally mature population with naive phenotype. This subset may naturally arise and decline in fetus to play a potential immunoregulatory role in intrauterine life.
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