Journal of Experimental Medicine
Immune tolerance and activation depend on precise control over the number and function of immunosuppressive Foxp3(+) regulatory T (T reg) cells, and the importance of IL-2 in maintaining tolerance and preventing autoimmunity is clear. However, the homeostatic requirement for IL-2 among specific populations of peripheral T reg cells remains poorly understood. We show that IL-2 selectively maintains a population of quiescent CD44(lo)CD62L(hi) T reg cells that gain access to paracrine IL-2 produced in the T cell zones of secondary lymphoid tissues due to their expression of the chemokine receptor CCR7. In contrast, CD44(hi)CD62L(lo)CCR7(lo) T reg cells that populate nonlymphoid tissues do not access IL-2-prevalent regions in vivo and are insensitive to IL-2 blockade; instead, their maintenance depends on continued signaling through the co-stimulatory receptor ICOS (inducible co-stimulator). Thus, we define a fundamental homeostatic subdivision in T reg cell populations based on their localization and provide an integrated framework for understanding how T reg cell abundance and function are controlled by unique signals in different tissue environments.