2). This indicates the absolute requirement for the presence of HBeAg in vivo for the development of HBeAg-specific DN T cells in the TCR-Tg model. To determine if the proliferation of DN T cells was MHC class II restricted, we added anti-MHC class II and anti-MHC class I antibodies in the culture compared with an isotype control. Anti-MHC class II antibodies (anti-I-Ab) completely inhibit the proliferation of DN T cells,
whereas anti-MHC class I antibodies had no effect (data not shown). Therefore, DN R788 T cells proliferate in an MHC class II-restricted manner. We next examined the cell surface markers of DN T cells. Cells were harvested from a 4-day spleen culture of 7/16-5 × HBeAg dbl-Tg mice, then negatively depleted of CD4+, CD8+, B220+, CD11c+ and Gr-1+ cells. The majority of cells were harvested as flow through, and these cells were collected as purified DN T cells. As expected Temsirolimus from the FACS analysis, approximately 50% of total cells harvested were DN T cells. The subsequent FACS analysis revealed that the Vβ11+ DN T cells were Thy-1.2+ (data not shown), B220−, PD-1+, GITRhigh and CD25low (Fig. 3a), and CD49b (DX-5)− (data not shown). Interestingly, the CD25 expression on DN T cells was very low, but PD-1, which is known as an inhibitory co-stimulatory molecule, was highly expressed (51·49%). Therefore, autocrine consumption of IL-2 in the culture
environment may not be the mechanism driving the
proliferation of DN T cells. A DN Treg cell phenotype has been reported previously;19,21,36 however, the previously reported DN Treg cells highly expressed CD25 and produced IL-2 and PIK3C2G IFN-γ, whereas the HBeAg-specific, Vβ11+, DN T cells have low expression of CD25 and no detectable IL-2 and IFN-γ production after in vitro activation (see below and Fig. 4). In addition to this unique phenotype, HBeAg-specific DN T cells proliferate in vitro very efficiently compared with the anergic status of most Treg cells in vitro (see Fig. 2). CTLA-4 is often expressed by cTreg cells and may play an important role in the suppressive function of Treg cells.14,37–39 However, HBeAg-specific Vβ11+ DN T cells do not express CTLA-4 (data not shown). Conventional Treg cells also express FoxP3 in the cytoplasm, which can represent a specific marker for cTreg cells. FoxP3 can also be involved in the generation of Treg cells as shown in an FoxP3 expression model in vitro.17 To investigate the expression of FoxP3 in DN cells, intracellular FACS staining was performed, however, no detectable FoxP3 was observed in HBeAg-specific, Vβ11+ DN T cells (Fig. 3b). Because cytokines other than IL-2 may be involved in the proliferation of T cells, we have examined the cytokine production profile of in vitro cultured HBeAg-specific DN T cells, using the Multiflex Biomarker Immunoassay (Fig. 4).