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Nat Immunol. 2002 Aug;3(8):756-63. Epub 2002 Jul 1.

Origin of regulatory T cells with known specificity for antigen.

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Harvard Medical School, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 44 Binney Street, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


T cell receptor agonists can induce the differentiation of regulatory T (T(R)) cells. We report here that the immunoglobulin kappa-controlled expression of an agonist in different cell types correlated with the phenotype of the generated T(R) cells. We found that aberrant expression on thymic stroma yielded predominantly CD4(+)CD25(+) T(R) cells, which--under physiological conditions--may be induced by ectopically expressed organ-specific antigens and thus prevent organ-specific autoimmunity. Expression of the agonist antigen by nonactivated hematopoietic cells produced mostly CD4(+)CD25(-) T(R) cells. This subset can be derived from mature monospecific T cells without "tutoring" by other T cells and can be generated in the absence of a functioning thymus. Suppression of CD4(+) T cell proliferative responses by both CD25(+) and CD25(-) subsets was interleukin 10 (IL-10) independent and was overcome by IL-2. These data suggest that distinct pathways can be exploited to interfere with unwanted immune responses.

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