We have established two complementary strategies for purifying naturally occurring regulatory T cells (Tregs) from rhesus macaques in quantities that would be sufficient for use as an in vivo cellular therapeutic. The first strategy identified Tregs based on their being CD4+/CD25bright. The second incorporated CD127, and purified Tregs based on their expression of CD4 and CD25 and their low expression of CD127. Using these purification strategies, we were able to purify as many as 1×106 Tregs from 120 cc of peripheral blood. Cultures of these cells with anti-CD3, anti-CD28 and IL-2 over 21 days yielded as much as a 450-fold expansion, ultimately producing as many as 4.7×108 Tregs. Expanded Treg cultures potently inhibited alloimmune proliferation as measured by a carboxyfluorescein succinimidyl ester- mixed lymphocyte reaction (CFSE-MLR) assay even at a 1:100 ratio with responder T cells. Furthermore, both responder-specific and third-party Tregs downregulated alloproliferation similarly. Both freshly isolated and cultured Tregs had gene expression signatures distinguishable from concurrently isolated bulk CD4+ T-cell populations, as measured by singleplex reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and gene array. Moreover, an overlapping yet distinct gene expression signature seen in freshly isolated compared to expanded Tregs identifies a subset of Treg genes likely to be functionally significant.
- Gene expression
- Regulatory T cells