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J Immunol. 2003 Dec 1;171(11):5678-82.

Cutting edge: self-peptides drive the peripheral expansion of CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells.

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  • 1The Wistar Institute, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


CD4(+)CD25(+) regulatory T cell selection is initiated by high-specificity interactions with self-peptides in the thymus, although how these cells respond to cytokine-derived signals and to re-exposure to self-peptide:MHC complexes in the periphery is not well understood. We have used a transgenic mouse system, in which the peptide that induces thymic selection of a clonal population of CD4(+)CD25(+) regulatory T cells is known, to show that CD4(+)CD25(+) T cells proliferate in response to their selecting self-peptide in vivo. Moreover, they do not proliferate in response to lymphopenia in the absence of the selecting self-peptide, reflecting a low level of expression of the high affinity receptor for IL-7 (CD127) relative to conventional CD4(+) T cells. That their selecting self-peptide is both required for and promotes the peripheral expansion of CD4(+)CD25(+) regulatory T cells may direct their accumulation in sites where the self-peptide is expressed.

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