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J Clin Invest. 2004 Jul;114(1):28-38.

Tolerance induced by inhaled antigen involves CD4(+) T cells expressing membrane-bound TGF-beta and FOXP3.

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Department of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213, USA.


Under normal circumstances, the respiratory tract maintains immune tolerance in the face of constant antigen provocation. Using a murine model of tolerance induced by repeated exposure to a low dose of aerosolized antigen, we show an important contribution by CD4(+) T cells in the establishment and maintenance of tolerance. The CD4(+) T cells expressed both cell surface and soluble TGF-beta and inhibited the development of an allergic phenotype when adoptively transferred to naive recipient mice. While cells expressing cell surface TGF-beta were detectable in mice with inflammation, albeit at a lower frequency compared with that in tolerized mice, only those from tolerized mice expressed FOXP3. Blockade of TGF-beta in vitro and in vivo interfered with immunosuppression. Although cells that expressed TGF-beta on the cell surface (TGF-beta(+)), as well as the ones that did not (TGF-beta(-)), secreted equivalent levels of soluble TGF-beta, only the former were able to blunt the development of an allergic phenotype in mice. Strikingly, separation of the TGF-beta(+) cells from the rest of the cells allowed the TGF-beta(-) cells to proliferate in response to antigen. We propose a model of antigen-induced tolerance that involves cell-cell contact with regulatory CD4(+) T cells that coexpress membrane-bound TGF-beta and FOXP3.

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