CHOP-led study identifies two different regulatory T cell populations

April 19, 2023
Study findings could lead to paradigm shift in how autoimmune diseases are treated, allowing for suppression of autoantibodies while maintaining immune protection.

A regulatory class of human T cells descends from two different origins, one that relates to autoimmunity and one that relates to protective immunity, according to a new study led by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). The findings, published in Science Immunology, could pave the way for new treatments for autoimmune diseases that target the immune system selectively.

The researchers, led by Carole Le Coz, PhD, a former postdoctoral researcher in the Romberg Lab, used a combination of computational, in vitro, and in vivo techniques to describe the origins, functions, and positions of Tfr cells within GCs. Since GCs are located in secondary lymphoid tissues like lymph nodes, spleens, and tonsils, the researchers analyzed tonsils that had been removed from healthy donor patients.

Using an interlocking suite of single cell technologies, the researchers were able to show that there is one subpopulation of Tfr cells that is induced by Tfh cells, which they called iTfrs, and another subpopulation that were “naturally” derived from Tregs, a subpopulation of T cells that are responsible for moderating the immune system, which they called nTfrs. In doing so, the demonstrated that there are two developmental trajectories: Treg-to-nTfr and Tfh-to-iTfr.

Once the researchers identified these two subpopulations of Tfr cells, they analyzed whether these two regulatory T cells express the surface protein CD38 differently. They found that iTfr cells express CD38, whereas nTfr cells do not. They were also able to catalogue the precise location of these different subpopulations within the GCs, in addition to demonstrating their developmental path and ability so support B cell function. 

CHOP release