Type 1 diabetes is caused by autoreactive T cells that destroy pancreatic beta cells. Animal models suggested that a CD4⁺CD25⁺ population has a regulatory function capable of preventing activation and effector functions of autoreactive T cells. However, the role of CD4⁺CD25high T cells in autoimmunity and their molecular mechanisms remain the subject of investigation. We therefore evaluated T regulatory cell frequencies and their PD-1 expression in the peripheral blood of long-standing diabetics under basal conditions and after CD3/CD28 stimulation. Under basal conditions, the percentages of T regulatory cells were significantly higher while that of T effector cells were significantly lower in patients than in controls. The ratio of regulatory to effector T cells was higher in patients than that in controls, suggesting that T regulatory cells were functional in patients. Percentages of total PD-1⁺, PD-1low and PD-1high expressing T regulatory cells did not change in patients and in controls. After stimulation, a defect in T regulatory cell proliferation was observed in diabetics and the percentages of total PD-1⁺, PD-1low and PD-1high expressing cells were lower in patients. Our data suggest a defective activation of T regulatory cells in long-standing diabetics due to a lower expression of PD-1 on their surface.
Perri, V., Russo, B., Crinò, A., Schiaffini, R., Giorda, E., Cappa, M., … Fierabracci, A. (2015). Expression of PD-1 molecule on regulatory T lymphocytes in patients with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 16(9), 22584–22605. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms160922584