FOXP3 defines regulatory t cells in human tumor and autoimmune disease

Ilona Kryczek, Rebecca Liu, Guobin Wang, Ke Wu, Xiaogong Shu, Wojciech Szeliga, Linhua Vatan, Emily Finlayson, Emina Huang, Diane Simeone, Bruce Redman, Theodore H. Welling, Alfred Chang, Weiping Zou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

166 Scopus citations


Activated T cells may express FOXP3. It is thought that FOXP3 is not a specific marker to determine regulatory T cells (Treg) in humans. Here, we examined the functional phenotype and cytokine profile of the in vitro induced FOXP3 + T cells, primary FOXP3 + and FOXP3- T cells in patients with ulcerative colitis and tumors including colon carcinoma, melanoma, hepatic carcinoma, ovarian carcinoma, pancreatic cancer, and renal cell carcinoma. We observed similar levels of suppressive capacity of primary FOXP3 + T cells in blood, tumors, and colitic tissues. Compared with primary FOXP3 - T cells in the same microenvironment, these primary FOXP3 + T cells expressed minimal levels of effector cytokines, negligible amount of cytotoxic molecule granzyme B, and levels of suppressive molecules interleukin-10 and PD-1. Although the in vitro + activated T cells expressed FOXP3, these induced FOXP3 + T cells expressed high levels of multiple effector cytokines and were not functionally suppressive. The data reinforce the fact that FOXP3 remains an accurate marker to define primary Tregs in patients with cancer and autoimmune disease. We suggest that the combination of FOXP3 and cytokine profile is useful for further functionally distinguishing primary Tregs from activated conventional T cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3995-4000
Number of pages6
JournalCancer research
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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