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Cell Mol Biol (Noisy-le-grand). 2003 Mar;49(2):143-9.

Modulation of regulatory T cell immunity by the neuropeptide alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone.

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Schepens Eye Research Institute and the Department of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School 20 Staniford Steet, Boston, MA 02114, USA.


Although many immunosuppressive factors have been identified in the eye, one of these factors, alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone (alpha-MSH), both suppresses the activation of inflammatory activity by primed T cells and induces the activation of regulatory T cells (Treg cells). This neuropeptide alone at its ocular physiological concentration can account for most of the immunosuppressive activity of aqueous humor (the fluid filing the anterior chamber of the eye). Aqueous humor made devoid of alpha-MSH no longer suppresses IFN-gamma production by Th1 cells. It is alpha-MSH that mediates aqueous humor induction of regulatory T cells. What we have found is that alpha-MSH mediates the induction of C4+ CD25+ Treg cells, and that if the alpha-MSH Treg cells are specific to an autoantigen they can be used to suppress autoimmune disease. It is the objective of this review to demonstrate how we came to discover that alpha-MSH could have such an important role in the extreme regional immunity of the immune privileged eye and how this discovery could be applied to create or reestablish tolerance to prevent autoimmune disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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