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Immunity. 2005 Aug;23(2):227-39.

The cellular mechanism of Aire control of T cell tolerance.

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Section on Immunology and Immunogenetics, Joslin Diabetes Center, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


Aire promotes the tolerization of thymocytes by inducing the expression of a battery of peripheral-tissue antigens in thymic medullary epithelial cells. We demonstrate that the cellular mechanism by which Aire exerts its tolerance-promoting function is not primarily positive selection of regulatory T cells, but rather negative selection of T effector cells. Surprisingly, supplementing its influence on the transcription of genes encoding peripheral-tissue antigens, Aire somehow enhances the antigen-presentation capability of medullary epithelial cells. Thus, this transcriptional control element promotes central tolerance both by furnishing a specific thymic stromal cell type with a repertoire of self antigens and by better arming such cells to present these antigens to differentiating thymocytes. In Aire's absence, autoimmunity and ultimately overt autoimmune disease develops.

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