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FOXP3(+)CD4(+) regulatory T cells (T(R)) have emerged as important regulators of immune responses. The aim of our study was to assess the frequency and functional characteristics of FOXP3(+)CD4(+) T(R) in Crohn's disease (CD). We report that FOXP3(+)CD4(+) T(R) cells are expanded in mucosal lymphoid tissues (lamina propria and MLN) but are decreased in the PB in active CD. Patients treated with thiopurines, but not steroids or anti-TNF-alpha inhibitors, have a lower frequency of PB FOXP3(+)CD4(+) T(R) (7.8+/-2.4% vs. 9.9+/-1.8%, p=0.01). FOXP3(+) cells were localized in the lamina propria (LP), muscularis mucosa and serosa and accumulated in granulomas, whereas in MLN they localize in the T cell rich areas. MLN CD4(+)CD25(+) T cells from both CD and normal intestine efficiently suppress the proliferation of effector CD4(+)CD25(-) T cells. T cell activation of MLN in vitro with anti-CD3 plus anti-CD28 Abs enhances the expression of FOXP3, both at the protein and transcriptional level, which is further enhanced by the addition of TGF-beta. In summary, there is an expansion of FOXP3(+)CD4(+) T(R) cells in mucosal lymphoid tissues in CD; they accumulate in areas of active inflammation, including granulomas and retain potent regulatory activity ex vivo.

Original publication




Journal article


Clin Immunol

Publication Date





281 - 290


Cell Proliferation, Coculture Techniques, Crohn Disease, Flow Cytometry, Forkhead Transcription Factors, Gene Expression Regulation, Granuloma, Humans, Immunity, Mucosal, Immunohistochemistry, Intestinal Mucosa, Lymphocyte Activation, T-Lymphocyte Subsets, T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory, Transfection