Donor-specific CD8+Foxp3+ T cells protect skin allografts and facilitate induction of conventional CD4+Foxp3 + regulatory T cells

N. M. Lerret, J. L. Houlihan, T. Kheradmand, K. L. Pothoven, Z. J. Zhang, X. Luo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

29 Scopus citations


CD4+ regulatory T cells play a critical role in tolerance induction in transplantation. CD8+ suppressor T cells have also been shown to control alloimmune responses in preclinical and clinical models. However, the exact nature of the CD8+ suppressor T cells, their induction and mechanism of function in allogeneic transplantation remain elusive. In this study, we show that functionally suppressive, alloantigen-specific CD8+Foxp3+ T cells can be induced and significantly expanded by stimulating naïve CD8+ T cells with donor dendritic cells in the presence of IL-2, TGF-β1 and retinoic acid. These CD8+Foxp3+ T cells express enhanced levels of CTLA-4, CCR4 and CD103, inhibit the up-regulation of costimulatory molecules on dendritic cells, and suppress CD4 and CD8 T cell proliferation and cytokine production in a donor-specific and contact-dependent manner. Importantly, upon adoptive transfer, the induced CD8+Foxp3+ T cells protect full MHC-mismatched skin allografts. In vivo, the CD8+Foxp3 + T cells preferentially traffic to the graft draining lymph node where they induce conventional CD4+Foxp3+ T cells and concurrently suppress effector T cell expansion. We conclude that donor-specific CD8+Foxp3+ suppressor T cells can be induced and exploited as an effective form of cell therapy for graft protection in transplantation. Alloantigen-specific CD8+Foxp3+ regulatory T cells exert their suppressive function by inducing the down-regulation of costimulatory molecules on CD11c+CD8α + dendritic cells and facilitating the conversion of naïve CD4+ T cells into CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2335-2347
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Transplantation
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • Allogeneic skin transplantation
  • CD4 regulatory T cells
  • CD8 suppressor cells
  • CD8αCD11c dendritic cells
  • Cytotoxic T lymphocytes
  • graft rejection
  • transforming growth factor-β1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Transplantation
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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