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J Immunol. 2009 Apr 15;182(8):4665-74. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0803628.

Maintenance of peripheral tolerance through controlled tissue homing of antigen-specific T cells in K14-mOVA mice.

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Department of Dermatology, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Immunological tolerance is crucial to avoid autoimmune and inflammatory diseases; however, the mechanisms involved are incompletely understood. To study peripheral tolerance to skin-associated Ags, we generated new transgenic mice expressing a membrane-bound form of OVA in skin under the human keratin 14 (K14) promoter (K14-mOVA mice). In contrast to other transgenic mice expressing similar self-Ags in skin, adoptive transfer of Ag-specific T cells does not induce inflammatory skin disease in our K14-mOVA mice. OVA-specific T cells transferred into K14-mOVA mice are activated in lymphoid tissues, undergo clonal expansion, and eventually acquire effector function. Importantly, these Ag-specific T cells selectively up-regulate expression of E-selectin ligand in cutaneous lymph nodes but not in mesenteric lymph nodes and spleen, demonstrating that expression of endogenous self-Ags in skin dictates imprinting of skin tissue homing in vivo. However, an additional inflammatory signal, here induced by tape stripping, is required in K14-mOVA mice to induce T cell migration to skin and development of inflammatory skin disease. Depletion of regulatory CD4(+)CD25(+) T cells did not provoke homing of transferred T cells to skin under steady-state conditions, indicating that these cells are not the key regulators for inhibiting T cell homing in K14-mOVA mice. Both skin-derived and lymph node-resident CD8alpha(+) dendritic cells are responsible for Ag presentation in vivo and induce tolerance to skin Ags, as we show by selective depletion of langerin(+) and CD11c(+) dendritic cells. Taken together, controlled skin homing of T cells is critical for the maintenance of peripheral immune tolerance to epidermal self-Ags.

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