AbstractRegulatory T cells (Tregs) are critical mediators of immune homeostasis. The co-stimulatory molecule CD27 is a marker of highly suppressive Tregs, although the role of the CD27-CD70 receptor-ligand interaction in Tregs is not clear. Here we show that after prolonged in vitro stimulation, a significant proportion of human Tregs gain stable CD70 expression while losing CD27. The expression of CD70 in expanded Tregs is associated with a profound loss of regulatory function and an unusual ability to provide CD70-directed co-stimulation to TCR-activated conventional T cells. Genetic deletion of CD70 or its blockade prevents Tregs from delivering this co-stimulatory signal, thus maintaining their regulatory activity. High resolution targeted single-cell RNA sequencing of human peripheral blood confirms the presence of CD27−CD70+ Treg cells. These findings have important implications for Treg-based clinical studies where cells are expanded over extended periods in order to achieve sufficient treatment doses.
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