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We investigated the relationship between varicella zoster virus (VZV)-specific memory CD4(+) T cells and CD4(+)Foxp3(+) regulatory T cells (Tregs) that accumulate after intradermal challenge with a VZV skin test Ag. VZV-specific CD4(+) T cells were identified with a MHC class II tetramer or by intracellular staining for either IFN-γ or IL-2 after Ag rechallenge in vitro. VZV-specific T cells, mainly of a central memory (CD45RA(-)CD27(+)) phenotype, accumulate at the site of skin challenge compared with the blood of the same individuals. This resulted in part from local proliferation because >50% of tetramer defined Ag-specific CD4(+) T cells in the skin expressed the cell cycle marker Ki67. CD4(+)Foxp3(+) T cells had the characteristic phenotype of Tregs, namely CD25(hi)CD127(lo)CD39(hi) in both unchallenged and VZV challenged skin and did not secrete IFN-γ or IL-2 after antigenic restimulation. The CD4(+)Foxp3(+) T cells from unchallenged skin had suppressive activity, because their removal led to an increase in cytokine secretion after activation. After VZV Ag injection, Foxp3(+)CD25(hi)CD127(lo)CD39(hi) T cells were also found within the VZV tetramer population. Their suppressive activity could not be directly assessed by CD25 depletion because activated T cells in the skin were also CD25(+). Nevertheless, there was an inverse correlation between decreased VZV skin responses and proportion of CD4(+)Foxp3(+) T cells present, indicating indirectly their inhibitory activity in vivo. These results suggest a linkage between the expansion of Ag-specific CD4(+) T cells and CD4(+) Tregs that may provide controlled responsiveness during Ag-specific stimulation in tissues.

Original publication




Journal article


J Immunol

Publication Date





977 - 986


Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Aging, Antigens, CD, Antigens, Viral, CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes, Female, Forkhead Transcription Factors, Herpesvirus 3, Human, Humans, Hypersensitivity, Delayed, Immediate-Early Proteins, Immunodominant Epitopes, Immunologic Memory, Injections, Intradermal, Intradermal Tests, Ki-67 Antigen, Lymphocyte Activation, Male, Middle Aged, Skin, T-Cell Antigen Receptor Specificity, T-Lymphocyte Subsets, T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory, Tuberculin Test, Viral Envelope Proteins, Young Adult