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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Jul 26;108(30):12437-42. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1107136108. Epub 2011 Jul 11.

Autoimmune regulator (AIRE)-deficient CD8+CD28low regulatory T lymphocytes fail to control experimental colitis.

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  • 1Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, Toulouse, France.

Abstract

Mutations in the gene encoding the transcription factor autoimmune regulator (AIRE) are responsible for autoimmune polyendocrinopathy candidiasis ectodermal dystrophy syndrome. AIRE directs expression of tissue-restricted antigens in the thymic medulla and in lymph node stromal cells and thereby substantially contributes to induction of immunological tolerance to self-antigens. Data from experimental mouse models showed that AIRE deficiency leads to impaired deletion of autospecific T-cell precursors. However, a potential role for AIRE in the function of regulatory T-cell populations, which are known to play a central role in prevention of immunopathology, has remained elusive. Regulatory T cells of CD8(+)CD28(low) phenotype efficiently control immune responses in experimental autoimmune and colitis models in mice. Here we show that CD8(+)CD28(low) regulatory T lymphocytes from AIRE-deficient mice are transcriptionally and phenotypically normal and exert efficient suppression of in vitro immune responses, but completely fail to prevent experimental colitis in vivo. Our data therefore demonstrate that AIRE plays an important role in the in vivo function of a naturally occurring regulatory T-cell population.

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