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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Mar 1;108(9):3677-82. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1100213108. Epub 2011 Feb 14.

Regulatory T-cell expansion during chronic viral infection is dependent on endogenous retroviral superantigens.

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  • 1Laboratory of Immunology, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.

Abstract

Regulatory T cells (Treg) play critical roles in the modulation of immune responses to infectious agents. Further understanding of the factors that control Treg activation and expansion in response to pathogens is needed to manipulate Treg function in acute and chronic infections. Here we show that chronic, but not acute, infection of mice with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus results in a marked expansion of Foxp3(+) Treg that is dependent on retroviral superantigen (sag) genes encoded in the mouse genome. Sag-dependent Treg expansion was MHC class II dependent, CD4 independent, and required dendritic cells. Thus, one unique mechanism by which certain infectious agents evade host immune responses may be mediated by endogenous Sag-dependent activation and expansion of Treg.

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