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Microbes Infect. 1999 Dec;1(15):1305-11.

Role of NK cells and TGF-beta in the regulation of T-cell-dependent antibody production in health and autoimmune disease.

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Division of Rheumatology and Immunology, Department of Medicine, University of Southern California School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA 90033, USA.


Natural killer (NK) cells are a third lymphocyte population especially important in innate immunity. NK cells may also have an important role in the regulation of acquired immunity. These lymphocytes spontaneously produce large amounts of both active and latent transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta). NK-cell-derived TGF-beta1 enabled activated CD8(+) T cells to inhibit antibody production by blocking the induction of this response. Production of lymphocyte-derived TGF-beta is decreased in systemic lupus erythematosus. Insufficient levels of this cytokine in SLE and other autoimmune diseases may contribute to defective T regulatory cell function characteristic of this and other autoimmune diseases. NK cells are found in mucosal tissues and the TGF-beta spontaneously released by these cells could contribute to the usual tolerogenic response of T cells to antigens presented at these sites. Thus, in addition to its well known immunosuppressive effects, TGF-beta could have an equally important role in the generation of regulatory T cells.

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