Induction and maintenance of self tolerance: the role of CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells
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The immune system responds vigorously to invading pathogens (non-self, foreign), while remaining unresponsive (tolerant) to the body's own components and circulating constituents (self). This indifference to self components is a result of finely orchestrated events of thymic negative selection (central tolerance) of developing T cells that are autoaggressive combined with those operative in the periphery (peripheral tolerance) to control the activity of potentially autoreactive T cells that escaped thymic tolerance. Recently, autoimmune regulator expressed in the thymus has been identified as a critical mediator of central tolerance towards tissue-specific antigens. In the periphery, a variety of regulatory T cells are involved in effecting tolerance. There is immense interest and excitement about the newly identified subset of CD4+CD25+ T cells. This is a unique subset of CD4+ T cells that bear CD25 (IL-2Ra chain) on the cell surface in the na?ve state and express FoxP3 as a unique marker. These cells suppress the activity of autoreactive effector T cells primarily via cell-cell contact. The deficiency and/or altered function of CD4+CD25+ T cells is associated with autoimmunity. Mice deficient in FoxP3 (scurfy mice) bear an autoimmune phenotype, and human males with mutations in the corresponding gene express the phenotype of widespread autoimmunity, the immune dysregulation, polyendocrinopathy and enteropathy, and X-linked syndrome. In vitro expansion of antigen-specific CD4+CD25+ T cells and their adoptive transfer into patients suffering from autoimmunity is emerging as a promising new therapeutic approach for these debilitating disorders. Development of tolerance to self antigens involves processes occurring within the thymus (central tolerance) and at extra-thymic sites (peripheral tolerance).
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Kamal D. Moudgil, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Howard Hall 323C, 660 W. Redwood St., Baltimore, MD 21201, USA