Regulatory T cells selectively control CD8+ T cell effector pool size via IL-2 restriction

Wolfgang Kastenmuller, Georg Gasteiger, Naeha Subramanian, Tim Sparwasser, Dirk H. Busch, Yasmine Belkaid, Ingo Drexler, Ronald N. Germain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Regulatory T cells (Treg) are key players in maintaining immune homeostasis but have also been shown to regulate immune responses against infectious pathogens. Therefore, Treg are a promising target for modulating immune responses to vaccines to improve their efficacy. Using a viral vector system, we found that Treg act on the developing immune response early postinfection by reducing the extent of dendritic cell costimulatory molecule expression. Due to this change and the lower IL-2 production that results, a substantial fraction of CD8+ effector T cells lose CD25 expression several days after activation. Surprisingly, such Treg-dependent limitations in IL-2 signaling by Ag-activated CD8+ T cells prevent effector differentiation without interfering with memory cell formation. In this way, Treg fine-tune the numbers of effector T cells generated while preserving the capacity for a rapid recall response upon pathogen re-exposure. This selective effect of Treg on a subpopulation of CD8+ T cells indicates that although manipulation of the Treg compartment might not be optimal for prophylactic vaccinations, it can be potentially exploited to optimize vaccine efficacy for therapeutic interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3186-3197
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 15 Sep 2011


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