Tumor-induced expansion of regulatory T cells by conversion of CD4+CD25- lymphocytes is thymus and proliferation independent.Cancer Res 2006; 66(8):4488-95CR
The CD25- and CD25+ CD4 T-lymphocyte compartments are tightly regulated. We show here that tumors break such balance, increasing the number of CD4+CD25+ T cells in draining lymph node and spleen but not contralateral node of tumor-bearing mice. Tumor injection in thymectomized and CD25-depleted mice shows that CD4+CD25+ T-cell expansion occurs even in the absence of the thymus and independently from proliferation of preexisting CD25+ T cells. These newly generated cells are bona fide regulatory T cells (T reg) in terms of Foxp3 expression and suppression of CD3-stimulated or allogeneic effector cell proliferation. Transfer of congenic Thy1.1 CD4+CD25- T cells, from mice treated or not with vinblastine, into tumor-bearing or tumor-free mice and analysis of recovered donor lymphocytes indicate that conversion is the main mechanism for acquiring the expression of CD25 and Foxp3 through a process that does not require proliferation. Although conversion of CD4+CD25- T cells for generation of T regs has been described as a natural process that maintains peripheral T-reg population, this process is used by the tumor for immune escape. The prompt recovery of T regs from monoclonal antibody-mediated CD25 depletion in tumor-bearing mice suggests attempts able to inactivate rather than deplete them when treating existing tumors.