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Note: Research in this publication was not performed at Janelia.
In this work, we find that CD8 T cells expressing inhibitory killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIRs) are the human equivalent of Ly49CD8 regulatory T cells in mice and are increased in the blood and inflamed tissues of patients with a variety of autoimmune diseases. Moreover, these CD8 T cells efficiently eliminated pathogenic gliadin-specific CD4 T cells from the leukocytes of celiac disease patients in vitro. We also find elevated levels of KIRCD8 T cells, but not CD4 regulatory T cells, in COVID-19 patients, correlating with disease severity and vasculitis. Selective ablation of Ly49CD8 T cells in virus-infected mice led to autoimmunity after infection. Our results indicate that in both species, these regulatory CD8 T cells act specifically to suppress pathogenic T cells in autoimmune and infectious diseases.