Peripheral generation and function of CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells
The balance between immunity and tolerance is important to maintain immune homeostasis. Several mechanisms are in place to ensure that the immune response is controlled, such as T cell anergy, apoptosis and immune ignorance. A fourth mechanism of peripheral tolerance is the active suppression by regulatory or suppressor T cells. The existence of suppressor T cells was first described in the early 1970s, but these cells became discredited in the 1980s. The work of Shimon Sakaguchi and others, however, has brought these cells back into the limelight and nowadays research into regulatory/suppressor T cells is a very active field of immunology. Different types of regulatory T cells have been described, including CD4+CD25+ T cells that constitutively express CTLA-4, GITR and Foxp3, TGF-beta producing Th3 cells, IL-10 producing Tr1 cells, and CD8+CD28- T cells. This review will focus on the generation and function of CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells. CD4+CD25+ regulatory cells were originally described as thymus-derived anergic/suppressive T cells. Recent papers, however, indicate that these cells might also be generated in the periphery. CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells can be activated by self-antigens and non-self-antigens, and once activated can suppress T cells in an antigen nonspecific manner. Interestingly, the suppressive effects of these cells are not restricted to the adaptive immune system (T and B cells) but can also affect the activation and function of innate immune cells (monocytes, macrophages, dendritic cells). These features make the CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cell subset an interesting target for immunotherapy of chronic inflammatory or autoimmune diseases.
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