Regulatory T-cell (Treg) detection in peripheral blood, based on flow cytometry, is invaluable for diagnosis and treatment of immune-mediated diseases. However, there is a lack of reliable methods to verify the performance, which is pivotal towards standardization of the Tregs assay.


To conduct standardization studies and verify the performance of 3 commercially available reagent sets for the Tregs assay based on flow cytometry and agreement analysis for Treg detection across the different reagent sets.


The analytical performance of Tregs assay using reagent sets supplied by 3 manufacturers was evaluated after establishing the gating strategy and determining the optimal antibody concentration. Postcollection sample stability was evaluated, as well as the repeatability, reproducibility, reportable range, linearity, and assay carryover. Agreement between the different assays was assessed via Bland-Altman plots and linear regression analysis. The relationship between the frequency of CD4+CD25+CD127low/− Tregs and CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ Tregs was evaluated.


The postcollection sample stability was set at 72 hours after collection at room temperature. The accuracy, repeatability, reproducibility, and accuracy all met the requirements for clinical analysis. Excellent linearity, with R2 ≥0.9 and no assay carryover, was observed. For reportable range, a minimum of 1000 events in the CD3+CD4+ gate was required for Tregs assay. Moreover, the results for Tregs labeled by antibodies from the 3 manufacturers were in good agreement. The percentage of CD4+CD25+CD127low/− Tregs was closely correlated with CD4+CD25+Foxp3+ Tregs.


This is the first study to evaluate systematically the measurement performance of Tregs in peripheral blood by flow cytometry, which provides a practical solution to verifying the performance of flow cytometry–based immune monitoring projects in clinical practice.

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Authors M Liu and J-P Liu contributed equally to this work.

Competing Interests

The authors have no relevant financial interest in the products or companies described in this article.

This study was supported by CAMS Innovation Fund for Medical Sciences (2019-I2M-5-027), National Key Research and Development Program of China (2019YFC0840701), and the Social Development Program from Shenyang Science and Technology Bureau, China (No. 20-205-4-005).

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