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Annu Rev Immunol. 2000;18:185-216.

The specific regulation of immune responses by CD8+ T cells restricted by the MHC class Ib molecule, Qa-1.

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Department of Medicine and Pathology, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY 10032, USA.


Over the last three decades considerable evidence has accumulated that CD8(+) T cells regulate peripheral immune responses, in part, by specifically controlling the outgrowth of antigen-triggered CD4(+) T cells. This regulatory function of CD8(+) T cells has been shown, in vivo, to control the emergence of autoreactive CD4(+) T cells as well as CD4(+) T cells reactive to conventional antigens, including alloantigens. In this review, we summarize the evidence that this immune suppression mediated by CD8(+) T cells is dependent, in part, on specific cognate interactions between MHC class I-restricted regulatory CD8(+) cells and antigen-activated CD4(+) T cells. Moreover, we review the evidence that regulatory CD8(+) T cells recognize antigen-activated CD4(+) T cells in a TCR specific manner restricted by the MHC class Ib molecule, Qa-1. The Qa-1 molecule may be uniquely qualified to serve this MHC restrictive function because, unlike conventional MHC molecules, it is preferentially and transiently expressed on activated and not resting CD4(+) T cells. This may assure that only recently antigen-activated CD4(+) T cells expressing Qa-1/TCR peptide complexes will induce regulatory CD8(+) T cells and subsequently become susceptible to regulation. Because Qa-1 also binds to self Qdm peptides that trigger NK (CD94/ NKG2) receptors on CD8(+) T cells, the machinery for homeostatic regulation of regulatory CD8(+) T cells can be envisioned. Finally, we propose a model by which these TCR specific, Qa-1-restricted regulatory CD8(+) T cells selectively downregulate antigen-activated T cells expressing TCRs of certain affinities. Ultimately these regulatory CD8(+) T cells control the peripheral TCR repertoire during the course of immune responses to both self and foreign antigens.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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