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J Immunol. 2006 Aug 1;177(3):1451-9.

Suppression of disease in New Zealand Black/New Zealand White lupus-prone mice by adoptive transfer of ex vivo expanded regulatory T cells.

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Department of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, CA 94121, USA.


An increasing number of studies indicate that a subset of CD4(+) T cells with regulatory capacity (regulatory T cells; T(regs)) can function to control organ-specific autoimmune disease. To determine whether abnormalities of thymic-derived T(regs) play a role in systemic lupus erythematosus, we evaluated T(reg) prevalence and function in (New Zealand Black x New Zealand White)F(1) (B/W) lupus-prone mice. To explore the potential of T(regs) to suppress disease, we evaluated the effect of adoptive transfer of purified, ex vivo expanded thymic-derived T(regs) on the progression of renal disease. We found that although the prevalence of T(regs) is reduced in regional lymph nodes and spleen of prediseased B/W mice compared with age-matched non-autoimmune mice, these cells increase in number in older diseased mice. In addition, the ability of these cells to proliferate in vitro was comparable to those purified from non-autoimmune control animals. Purified CD4(+)CD25(+)CD62L(high) B/W T(regs) were expanded ex vivo 80-fold, resulting in cells with a stable suppressor phenotype. Adoptive transfer of these exogenously expanded cells reduced the rate at which mice developed renal disease; a second transfer after treated animals had developed proteinuria further slowed the progression of renal disease and significantly improved survival. These studies indicate that thymic-derived T(regs) may have a significant role in the control of autoimmunity in lupus-prone B/W mice, and augmentation of these cells may constitute a novel therapeutic approach for systemic lupus erythematosus.

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