Regulatory T cell subsets are differentially dependent on CD28 for their proliferation

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It is thought that CD28 plays a crucial role in the maintenance of regulatory T cell (Treg) pool size through promoting the development and proliferation of these cells. However, recently we found that the dependency on CD28 co-stimulation for their development is different between Treg subsets, thymus-derived Tregs (tTregs, CD28-dependent) and peripherally-derived Tregs (pTregs, CD28-independent), suggesting that CD28 may also have differential influences on the homeostasis of each Treg subset. Here, we demonstrated that both Treg subsets were reduced in secondary lymphoid organs of CD28 deficient mice, and that this reduction was due to impaired proliferation in both Treg subsets by the intrinsic CD28 defect. However, we found that the massive proliferation of both Treg subsets under lymphopenic condition was regulated by CD28, whereas the proliferative activity of tTregs but not pTregs in the steady state was dependent on CD28. Also, experiments using mutant CD28 knock-in mice revealed that proliferation of pTregs under lymphopenic condition required only the Lck-NFκB pathway of CD28, whereas tTregs required an additional unknown pathway. These findings indicate that the dependency on CD28 for proliferation in each Treg subset differs depending on the environment.

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