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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Nov 29;102(48):17418-23. Epub 2005 Nov 15.

CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells limit the risk of autoimmune disease arising from T cell receptor crossreactivity.

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  • 1Institute of Immunology and Infection Research, School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh, UK.


The molecular-mimicry theory proposes that immune crossreactivity between microbial and self-antigen is the initiating event in the activation of autoaggressive immune responses leading to autoimmune disease. In support of this possibility, it is now accepted that T cell recognition of antigen is highly degenerate. However, it is to be expected that the immune system would have evolved mechanisms to counter such a potential danger. We studied the influence of CD4(+)CD25(+) regulatory T cells (Treg) on the ability of suboptimal T cell receptor ligands to provoke autoimmunity. By using CD4(+) T cell-driven experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis as a model, it was found that depletion of CD4(+)CD25(+)Foxp3(+) Treg allowed pathology to develop in response to suboptimal T cell stimulation. These data demonstrate the importance of Treg in raising the threshold of triggering of autoreactive T cell responses, thus limiting the risk of autoimmune disease due to molecular mimicry.

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