The Journal of experimental medicine

CCR6 is expressed on an IL-10-producing, autoreactive memory T cell population with context-dependent regulatory function.

PMID 20194631


Interleukin (IL)-10 produced by regulatory T cell subsets is important for the prevention of autoimmunity and immunopathology, but little is known about the phenotype and function of IL-10-producing memory T cells. Human CD4(+)CCR6(+) memory T cells contained comparable numbers of IL-17- and IL-10-producing cells, and CCR6 was induced under both Th17-promoting conditions and upon tolerogenic T cell priming with transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta. In normal human spleens, the majority of CCR6(+) memory T cells were in the close vicinity of CCR6(+) myeloid dendritic cells (mDCs), and strikingly, some of them were secreting IL-10 in situ. Furthermore, CCR6(+) memory T cells produced suppressive IL-10 but not IL-2 upon stimulation with autologous immature mDCs ex vivo, and secreted IL-10 efficiently in response to suboptimal T cell receptor (TCR) stimulation with anti-CD3 antibodies. However, optimal TCR stimulation of CCR6(+) T cells induced expression of IL-2, interferon-gamma, CCL20, and CD40L, and autoreactive CCR6(+) T cell lines responded to various recall antigens. Notably, we isolated autoreactive CCR6(+) T cell clones with context-dependent behavior that produced IL-10 with autologous mDCs alone, but that secreted IL-2 and proliferated upon stimulation with tetanus toxoid. We propose the novel concept that a population of memory T cells, which is fully equipped to participate in secondary immune responses upon recognition of a relevant recall antigen, contributes to the maintenance of tolerance under steady-state conditions.