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J Theor Biol. 2000 Oct 21;206(4):539-60.

Cytokine-modulated regulation of helper T cell populations.

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  • 1Immunobiology Unit, Institute of Child Health, 30 Guilford Street, London WC1N 1EH, UK.


Helper T (Th) cells are a crucial component of the adaptive immune system and are of fundamental importance in orchestrating the appropriate response to pathogenic challenge. They fall into two broad categories defined by the cytokines each produces. Th1 cells produce interferon- gamma and are required for effective immunity to intracellular bacteria, viruses and protozoa whereas Th2 produce IL-4 and are required for optimal antibody production to T-dependent antigens. A great deal of experimental data on the regulation of Th1 and Th2 differentiation have been obtained but many essential features of this complex system are still not understood. Here we present a mathematical model of Th1/Th2 differentiation and cross regulation. We model Fas-mediated activation-induced cell death (AICD) as this process has been identified as an important mechanism for limiting clonal expansion and resolving T cell responses. We conclude that Th2 susceptibility to AICD is important for stabilizing the two polarized arms of the T helper response, and that cell-cell killing, not suicide, is the dominant mechanism for Fas-mediated death of Th1 effectors. We find that the combination of the anti-proliferative effect of the cytokine TGF- beta and the inhibiting influence of IL-10 on T cell activation are crucial controls for Th2 populations. We see that the strengths of the activation signals for each T helper cell subset, which are dependent on the antigen dose, co-stimulatory signals and the cytokine environment, critically determine the dominant helper subset. Switches from Th1- to Th2-dominance may be important in chronic infection and we show that this phenomenon can arise from differential AICD susceptibility of T helper subsets, and asymmetries in the nature of the cross-suppressive cytokine interactions. Our model suggests that in some senses a predominantly type 2 reaction may well be the "default" pathway for an antigen-specific immune response, due to these asymmetries.

Copyright 2000 Academic Press.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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