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J Immunol. 2005 Dec 15;175(12):7898-904.

Cooperation of invariant NKT cells and CD4+CD25+ T regulatory cells in the prevention of autoimmune myasthenia.

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Barrow Neurological Institute, St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, Phoenix, AZ 85013, USA.


CD1d-restricted NKT cells and CD4+CD25+ regulatory T (Treg) cells are thymus-derived subsets of regulatory T cells that have an important role in the maintenance of self-tolerance. Whether NKT cells and Treg cells cooperate functionally in the regulation of autoimmunity is not known. We have explored this possibility in experimental autoimmune myasthenia gravis (EAMG), an animal model of human myasthenia gravis, induced by immunization of C57BL/6 mice with the autoantigen acetylcholine receptor. We have demonstrated that activation of NKT cells by a synthetic glycolipid agonist of NKT cells, alpha-galactosylceramide (alpha-GalCer), inhibits the development of EAMG. alpha-GalCer administration in EAMG mice increased the size of the Treg cell compartment, and augmented the expression of foxp3 and the potency of CD4+CD25+ cells to inhibit proliferation of autoreactive T cells. Furthermore, alpha-GalCer promoted NKT cells to transcribe the IL-2 gene and produce IL-2 protein. Depletion of CD25+ cells or neutralization of IL-2 reduced the therapeutic effect of alpha-GalCer in this model. Thus, alpha-GalCer-activated NKT cells can induce expansion of CD4+CD25+ Treg cells, which in turn mediate the therapeutic effects of alpha-GalCer in EAMG. Induced cooperation of NKT cells and Treg cells may serve as a superior strategy to treat autoimmune disease.

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