Skip to main content
  • Meeting abstract
  • Published:

CD28nullCD4+ T cells: an effector memory T cell population in patients with rheumatoid arthritis


CD4+ T cells lacking the costimulatory molecule CD28 have been described in both elderly individuals and in several chronic inflammatory disorders, one being rheumatoid arthritis (RA).


We characterized such CD28nullCD4+ T cells from RA patients in order to identify surface markers correlating with function.


Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were analyzed for surface marker expression by flow cytometry and in vitro cultures were set up for functional studies.


One-third of the RA patients had a persistent and expanded CD28null population, which comprised up to half of the CD4+ T cells in peripheral blood. Functionally, CD28nullCD4+ T cells were potent effector memory cells with regard to their proliferation and cytokine secretion profiles. This functional capacity correlated with a hitherto unpublished surface phenotype, the cells being uniformly CCR7-negative and CD43high. In addition, we re-evaluated previously suggested cell surface markers, and found CD57 and CD11b expressed on the majority of these NKT-like CD4+ T cells. When combining phenotypic and functional analyses of subpopulations of the CD28nullCD4+ T cells a new terminally differentiated T cell population was identified.


We believe that in the balanced immune system of healthy individuals, CD28nullCD4+ T cells are under homeostatic control, whereas in an unbalanced immune system such as in autoimmune disease CD28nullCD4+ T cells are allowed to expand and have the capacity to enhance ongoing inflammatory reactions.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Fasth, A., Cao, D., van Vollenhoven, R. et al. CD28nullCD4+ T cells: an effector memory T cell population in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Res Ther 6 (Suppl 1), 37 (2004).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Published:

  • DOI: