Regulatory T cells are a population of CD4+ T cells that play a critical role in peripheral tolerance and control of immune responses to pathogens. The purpose of this study was to measure the percentages of two different regulatory T cells subpopulations, identified by the presence or absence of CD31 (Recent thymic emigrants and peripherally induced naïve regulatory T cells), in term and preterm infant cord blood. We report the association of prenatal factors, intrauterine exposure to lipopolysaccharide and inflammation and the percentages of these regulatory T cell subpopulations in term and preterm infants. Cord blood samples were collected from both term and preterm infants and mononuclear cells isolated over a Ficoll-Hypaque cushion. Cells were then stained with fluorochrome-labeled antibodies to characterize regulatory T cell populations and analyzed with multi-color flow cytometry. Cord blood plasma C-reactive protein, and lipopolysaccharide were also measured. Placental pathology was also examined. We report a gestational age-dependent difference in the percentage of total regulatory T cells, in which preterm infants of lower gestational ages have an increased percentage of regulatory T cells. We report the presence of two populations of regulatory T cells (CD31+ and CD31-) in cord blood of term and preterm infants and their association with different maternal and fetal characteristics. Factors associated with differences in the percentage of CD31- Tregs included the use of prenatal antibiotics, steroids and magnesium sulfate. In addition, the percentage of CD31- Tregs was significantly higher in cord blood of preterm pregnancies associated with inflammation and prenatal lipopolysaccharide exposure. The peripheral Treg pool of preterm infants could be altered by prenatal exposure to inflammation and chorioamnionitis; however, the clinical implications of this finding are not yet understood. Copyright: © 2014 Luciano et al.
Luciano, A. A., Arbona-Ramirez, I. M., Ruiz, R., Llorens-Bonilla, B. J., Martinez-Lopez, D. G., Funderburg, N., & Dorsey, M. J. (2014). Alterations in regulatory T cell subpopulations seen in preterm infants. PLoS ONE, 9(5). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0095867