Functional maturation of CD4(+)CD25(+)CTLA4(+)CD45RA(+)T regulatory cells in human neonatal T cell responses to environmental antigens/allergens

C.A. Thornton, John Upham, Matthew Wikstrom, B.J. Holt, G.P. White, M.J. Sharp, Peter Sly, Patrick Holt

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126 Citations (Scopus)


A number of laboratories have reported cord blood T cell responses to ubiquitous environmental Ags, including allergens, by proliferation and cytokine secretion. Moreover, the magnitude of these responses has been linked with risk for subsequent expression of allergy. These findings have been widely interpreted as evidence for transplacental priming and the development of fetal T memory cells against Ags present in the maternal environment. However, we present findings below that suggest that neonatal T cell responses to allergens (and other Ags) differ markedly from those occurring in later life. Notably, in contrast to allergen-responsive adult CD4+ T cell cultures, responding neonatal T cell cultures display high levels of apoptosis. Comparable responses were observed against a range of microbial Ags and against a parasite Ag absent from the local environment, but not against autoantigen. A notable finding was the appearance in these cultures of CD4+CD25+CTLA4+ T cells that de novo develop MLR-suppressive activity. These cells moreover expressed CD45RA and CD38, hallmarks of recent thymic emigrants. CFSE-labeling studies indicate that the CD4+CD25+ cells observed at the end of the culture period were present in the day 0 starting populations, but they were not suppressive in MLR responses. Collectively, these findings suggest that a significant component of the reactivity of human neonatal CD4+ T cells toward nominal Ag (allergen) represents a default response by recent thymic emigrants, providing an initial burst of short-lived cellular immunity in the absence of conventional T cell memory, which is limited in intensity and duration via the parallel activation of regulatory T cells.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3084-3092
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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