Presentation of acquired peptide-MHC class II ligands by CD4+ regulatory T cells or helper cells differentially regulates antigen-specific CD4+ T cell response

Gang Zhou, Zhi Chun Ding, Jie Fu, Hyam I. Levitsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Activated T cells can acquire membrane molecules from APCs through a process termed trogocytosis. The functional consequence of this event has been a subject of debate. Focusing on transfer of peptide-MHC class II (MHC-II) complexes from APCs to CD4+ T cells after activation, in this study we investigated the molecule acquisition potential of naturally occurring regulatory T cells (Tregs) and CD4+ Th cells. We show that acquisition of membrane molecules from APCs is an inherent feature of CD4 + T cell activation. Triggering of the TCR enables CD4+ T cells to acquire their agonist ligands as well as other irrelevant membrane molecules from the interacting APCs or bystander cells in a contact-dependent manner. Notably, trogocytosis is a continuous process during cell cycle progression, and Th cells and Tregs have comparable capacity for trogocytosis both in vitro and in vivo. The captured peptide-MHC-II molecules, residing in sequestered foci on the host cell surface, endow the host cells with Ag-presenting capability. Presentation of acquired peptide-MHC-II ligands by Th cells or Tregs has either stimulatory or regulatory effect on naive CD4 + T cells, respectively. Furthermore, Th cells with captured peptide-MHC-II molecules become effector cells that manifest better recall responses, and Tregs with captured ligands exhibit enhanced suppression activity. These findings implicate trogocytosis in different subsets of CD4 + T cells as an intrinsic mechanism for the fine tuning of Ag-specific CD4+ T cell response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2148-2155
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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