The intestinal epithelial cell: Processing and presentation of antigen to the mucosal immune system
The immunologic tone of the intestinal tract is one of suppressed or highly regulated responses. While there are several components (intrinsic and extrinsic to the gut-associated lymphoid tissue) responsible for this immunologically suppressed tone, the intestinal epithelial call (IEC) has been proposed as a key player in this process. IECs can take up and process antigen but distinct surface molecules and restriction elements allow them to present these antigens to unique regulatory T cells. These include the expression of the class Ib molecule CD1d as well as a novel CD8 ligand, gp180. These molecules come together to activate a subpopulation of CD8+ regulatory cells whose function is to suppress immune responses in an antigen non-specific fashion most likely through cognate interactions. This form of regulation may be unique to the gut-associated lymphoid tissue which is consistent with the unusual demands upon this part of the immune system.
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