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Arch Immunol Ther Exp (Warsz). 2001;49 Suppl 1:S1-6.

Regulation of immunological mucosal tolerance.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Cell Biology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Mucosal tolerance is an immunological phenomenon specific to mucosal surfaces as found in the lungs and gastrointestinal tract. It results in the suppression of immune responses to inhaled or ingested antigens and prevents the body from unwanted and unnecessary immunological responses to harmless molecules, such as grass-pollen or food constituents. This imposes the difficult task for the immune system of keeping a balance between reacting and non-reacting, and disturbances of this balance result in allergies and, possibly, autoimmunity, as well as opportunistic infections and even an escape from tumor surveillance. Understanding the mechanisms that underlie mucosal tolerance is, therefore, important from different viewpoints. Maintenance or (re)induction of mucosal tolerance to, e.g., food proteins, airborne allergens or autoantigens is desirable to prevent or cure allergies and autoimmune diseases. However, induction of mucosal tolerance is an unwanted phenomenon in mucosal vaccination and in the case of mucosal tumors.

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