Identification of a unique double-negative regulatory T-cell population

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Regulatory T (Treg) cells represent one of the main mechanisms of regulating self-reactive immune cells. Treg cells are thought to play a role in down-regulating immune responses to self or allogeneic antigens in the periphery. Although the function of Treg cells has been demonstrated in many experimental settings, the precise mechanisms and antigen specificity often remain unclear. In a hepatitis B e antigen–T-cell receptor (HBeAg-TCR) double transgenic mouse model, we observed a phenotypically unique (TCR+ CD4−/CD8− CD25+/− GITRhigh PD-1high FoxP3−) HBeAg-specific population that demonstrates immune regulatory function. This HBeAg-specific double-negative regulatory cell population proliferates vigorously in vitro, in contrast to any other known regulatory population, in an interleukin-2-independent manner.

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